February 21, 2024

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyans go to the polls on Tuesday to choose a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The race is close and it could go to a second round for the first time.

A leading contender is Raila Odinga, opposition leader in his fifth bid for the presidency, who is backed by former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who clashed with the president earlier in their decade in office.

Both tend to focus much more on domestic issues, raising the question of how Kenyatta’s diplomatic efforts to calm neighboring Ethiopia will fare. or the tensions between Rwanda and Congo.


Kenya is the economic hub of East Africa and is home to approximately 56 million people. The country has a recent history of turbulent elections. Even then, it stands out for its relative stability in a region where some elections are deeply contested and longtime leaders such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have been declared winners with nearly 99% of the vote or have widely accused of physically suppressing the claimants.

Kenya has no transparency in campaign donations or spending. Some candidates for Parliament and other positions are estimated to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to power and its benefits, both legal and illegal.


Ruto, 55, projects himself to the young and the poor as a “hustler” who rose from humble beginnings as a chicken seller in contrast to the Kenyatta and Odinga elite. It seeks greater agricultural productivity and economic inclusion. Agriculture is the main driver of Kenya’s economy and about 70% of the rural workforce is in agriculture.

The 77-year-old Odinga, famous for his imprisonment while fighting for multi-party democracy decades ago, has pledged cash donations to Kenya’s poorer and more affordable health care for all.


Odinga and Ruto have long been tossed around as presidential contenders, and there is some apathy among Kenyans, particularly younger ones in a country where the median age is about 20. The electoral commission registered fewer than half the young voters it had hope, just 2.5 million.

The key issues in every election include widespread corruption and the economy. Kenyans have been hit by rising food and fuel prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and this comes after the economic pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a third of the country’s youth are unemployed.


Official results will be announced within a week of voting. To win outright, a candidate needs more than half the votes and at least 25% of the vote in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. No clear winner means a repeat election within 30 days.

The previous presidential election in 2017 made history when a high court overturned the results and ordered a new vote, a first in Africa. If the courts again require a new vote, such election shall be held within 60 days of the judgment. Candidates or others have one week after the results are announced to make an application to the court, which has two weeks to rule on it.

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