Kenya prepares for elections

The campaign for Kenya’s presidential and parliamentary elections began in earnest after MPs passed a raft of important bills including a mini-budget on 8 January, the last day of the tenth parliament. Among the most important bills passed was the Sh74 billion supplementary budget, which includes some Sh16 billion designated for development projects over the next four months.

The country’s prime minister Raila Odinga, who lost the 2007 presidential race to his rival Mwai Kibaki, is currently the favourite to succeed the incumbent Kibaki as the fourth president of Kenya. Kibaki, who has served two terms as president and is not permitted to stand a third time, has refused to endorse a presidential candidate but has appealed to Kenyans to ensure peaceful elections.

The “Cord” alliance behind Odinga’s campaign takes its name from the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy which comprises three main parties: the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Odinga; the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) led by Kalonzo Musyoka; and Ford Kenya led by Moses Wetangula.

Odinga’s main challenger for the top job is Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's deputy prime minister and former finance minister.

Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in relation to orchestrating post-election violence from late 2007 to early 2008 in which over 1,100 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. At the time he was a supporter of President Kibaki

Kenyatta’s direct rival in the post-election violence was former higher education minister William Ruto, then a supporter of Odinga. Kenyatta and Ruto, who both stand accused of the orchestration of murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution in the aftermath of the 2007 election – on opposite sides – have now formed the most unlikely of election pacts, known as the “Jubilee” alliance. The two former arch enemies have joined forces in the presidential race against the favourite Odinga – with Ruto dropping his allegiance to his former colleague in the ODM. 

In late December Kenyatta resigned from the KANU party before being endorsed as presidential candidate by the rebranded National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party (URP) whose leader is Kenyatta’s running mate and former ODM member Ruto. If their joint campaign proves successful, Kenyatta would become president and Ruto would serve as deputy president. Cabinet and parliamentary positions would be divided evenly between both sides.

Meanwhile on 4 January Kenya’s deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi’s threw the cat among the pigeons by declaring his entry into the presidential race. He formed the “Amani” coalition with the support of Eugene Wamalwa from the New Ford Kenya party and KANU’s Gideon Moi, son of Daniel arap Moi who succeeded Jomo Kenyatta as Kenya’s second president. The candidature of Mudavadi raises the prospects of a presidential run-off if he wins enough support to deny Odinga or Kenyatta sufficient votes to seal an outright victory.

Due to the terms of Kenya’s new constitution, voted in by a referendum in 2010, the 2013 elections could be the first in which candidates face a second round run-off between the first and the second candidate if neither achieves a majority the first time around, or if the winner does not get 25 per cent of the votes in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

All aspiring parliamentary candidates in the elections must seek formal nominations to contest seats by 18 January, a deadline established by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which will oversee the elections for the first time. The 2013 elections will also be the first held under the new constitution, following the 2010 referendum in which Kenyans voted to increase the number of constituencies from 210 to 290. In addition to the new electoral boundaries, a biometric voting system was introduced to replace the manual registration process and curb electoral fraud which was blamed for the violence after the last election.

The cost of the 2013 general election will be Sh24.9 billion, three times that of the last poll, according to the finance ministry. The bulk of this cost relates to the roll out of the biometric voter registration system. The now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya, disbanded in 2008, spent Sh8 billion on the 2007 election.

Photo left to right. Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta