The Nation (Nairobi)

21 August 2010

Kenya: Raila the Man to Beat in 2012 - Poll

Nairobi — The overwhelming support for the new constitution has increased the chances of Prime Minister Raila Odinga bagging the presidency in 2012, according to a new opinion poll published on Sunday.

The survey conducted by pollsters Infotrak Harris also shows that the winning candidate will have to carefully select his or her running mate in order to claim victory.

Mr Odinga's popularity is placed at 46 per cent, some 33 points clear of his nearest challenger, according to results of the survey conducted between August 13 and August 15.

"When we conducted a poll in December, the passing of the constitution was the number one wish for Kenyans. This is when he initially took the baton," said Infotrak's chief executive Angela Ambitho.

"Whoever went forward to campaign in many ways won the heart of Kenyans. That is perhaps one of the reasons why his popularity is high. It has worked in his favour."

His closest potential challenger, according to the poll, is Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, whose popularity is pegged at 13 per cent. The third most popular politician, the pollsters found, is Higher Education minister William Ruto at 10 per cent.

Water minister Charity Ngilu ranks fourth in the ratings at seven per cent followed closely by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Gichugu MP Martha Karua at six per cent.

Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi is perceived as a potential president by four per cent of those who were surveyed.

The poll comes hot on the heels of the August 4 referendum on a new Constitution, which has set a different stage for the 2012 contest and whose outcome an overwhelming majority of Kenyans are satisfied with.

"Majority of Kenyans, 91 per cent, are satisfied with the outcome of the referendum. Satisfaction is relatively high across the country, even in the Rift Valley (88 per cent) which registered the highest 'No' vote," said Ms Ambitho.

Majority of those satisfied attribute it to the promise of positive change that the new Constitution holds, while others indicated that the new laws are certainly better than the existing one, said the pollster.

Most Kenyans appreciate the peaceful referendum outcome and the fact that voting was not characterised by violence.

"Closely linked to this is the efficiency of the IIEC, which managed the process beyond most Kenyans' expectations," said Ms Ambitho.

"However, nine per cent of Kenyans are not satisfied with the outcome of the referendum. Their reasons vary, but mainly because the Church was defeated."

The Vice-President immediately dismissed the poll's findings.

"The reality on the ground is quite different. But people are free to come up with all manner of scenarios if that makes them sleep better. 2012 is still a long way off and as you know, even a day in politics is very long indeed," said Kaplich Barsito, the vice-president's spokesperson.

The opinion poll shows that if an election were held today, none of the candidates would pass the constitutional test and bag over 50 per cent of the vote.

"The new constitution stipulates that a presidential candidate must garner an overall 50 per cent plus one across the country and 25 per cent of votes in half of the 47 counties.

If this be the case, very few candidates seem to stand a chance of making it to the big seat if elections were held today.

This in a nutshell brings forth the need for consolidation of alliances in the period culminating to the 2012 elections," said Ms Ambitho.

A regional examination of the statistics shows that Mr Odinga attracts over 50 per cent rating from all provinces except Central, Eastern and Rift Valley for the 2012 presidential contest.

A combination of the political alliance commonly known as KKK between Mr Musyoka, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would attract a 29 per cent rating from across the country.

Under the new constitution, the formula for winning presidential elections will be difficult.

In previous elections, presidential candidates often attracted support by promising Cabinet positions to regional or tribal leaders. But not any more.

The situation has now changed since under the new laws, Cabinet members will not be MPs and will have to be approved by Parliament.

In the 2008 presidential race in the US, observers felt that Senator John McCain's loss was sealed the day he picked little known and largely untested Sara Palin as running mate.

The position of a running mate bothered the then Senator Barack Obama for a long time as some expected him to pick Mrs Hillary Clinton but instead picked Mr Joe Biden.

Infotrak found that the most popular running mate for every potential presidential candidate currently is Mr Kenyatta, who attracts favour for that position from 30 per cent of Kenyans.

Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi are viewed as favourable running mates by the same number of those polls and their rating for a running mate stands at 18 per cent each.

Another 13 per cent of Kenyan feel that Mr Ruto would be suited for a running mate.

The only two women in the top league, Ms Karua and Mrs Ngilu, are perceived to be probable running mates by 8 per cent and 9 per cent of Kenyans, respectively.

By regions, Mr Kenyatta is favoured as a running mate in all the provinces except Nyanza where only 15 per cent favour him as a running mate.

Mr Mudavadi, on the other hand, is the most appealing running mate to those in Nyanza and Western provinces.

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