In Summary
  • Mr Ruto relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the candidates, and is therefore embarking on this battle propped up by a formidable war chest.
  • Observers also believe Mr Odinga's dalliance with President Kenyatta and the First Family’s key decision makers, including Mr George Muhoho, could boost his stab at the presidency.

The race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta is shaping up and, as expected, it is getting crowded already, two years to the ballot.

The lack of incumbency somehow levels the ground, yet at the same time raises the stakes, hence the early strategising and jostling.

As always, the contest will come down to two factors: numbers and money — lots of it.

If recent revelations that Jubilee Party could have forked out almost Sh600 million to run a propaganda enterprise in the 2017 polls are anything to go by, the huge cost of running a presidential campaign will separate the haves and the have nots in the run-up to the 2022 polls.

But two years is a long time in politics. And even though Deputy President William Ruto is emerging as a front runner already, the field could be turned upside down by President Kenyatta should he name someone else as his preferred successor.

That, coupled with the President’s legacy battles, his political pact with Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, the probability of coalitions, the unpredictability of traditional voting blocs and their allegiances, as well as the effects of the proposed referendum on the electorate, will shape the political narrative in the next two years.

RUTO'S CHANCES

Although Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta have insisted their deal is only meant to unite the country, and that it has no political component, it has left many, particularly in Mr Ruto’s turf, questioning whether the Head of State will renege on his promise to support his deputy in 2022.

As things stand now, among the leaders political analysts believe stand a great chance to succeed Mr Kenyatta are Mr Ruto, Mr Odinga and Amani National Congress’ Musalia Mudavadi.

The front runner at the moment is Mr Ruto, who appears to have used his years as DP to learn about the country and its people and is now reaching out to political and religious leaders to bolster his campaigns.

The former Eldoret North MP is also relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the candidates, and is therefore embarking on this battle propped up by a formidable war chest.

Should he survive the many allegations that he is quick to protect corrupt leaders and technocrats, and manage to marshal the support of Mt Kenya region, the Coast, Western and Rift Valley, he would be home and dry.

CORRUPTION

History researcher and author Godfrey Sang says Mr Ruto’s biggest advantage so far could be the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga and the public perceptions of the whole pact since then.

“Mr Odinga has convinced his troops that Uhuru is good and Ruto bad. But the more he drums that up, and the more the state is seen, felt or thought to be frustrating the candidacy of Ruto, the more he becomes popular to the citizens,” Mr Sang says.

But Prof Odhiambo Ndege, a lecturer of politics at Moi University says, “Mr Ruto has spoiled his own chances by making assassination claims, being associated with corruption, and appearing to be too ambitious.”

“No second-in-command has exhibited such ambition before. People now believe that if he wins, we will be in a lot of problems,” Prof Ndege says.

Although he is yet to declare his aspirations for 2022, Mr Odinga has been revamping ODM, which, according to opinion polls, is Kenya’s second most popular party after Jubilee.

His Building Bridges Initiative and talk of a coming referendum indicate that Mr Odinga is nowhere near retirement.

Observers also believe his dalliance with President Kenyatta and the First Family’s key decision makers, including Mr George Muhoho, could boost his stab for the presidency.

CHARACTER TRAITS

But the former premier’s ambitions could be curtailed by the history of the Odingas, with some linking them to unannounced radical changes and fear that they will revenge against the ills, true or false, committed against them.

Mr Mudavadi, on the other hand, has been there, done that, and lost it. This time round however, he has started early by selling his brand of political gospel in central Kenya, where he hopes to bag the support the vote-rich bloc.

Going by his private meetings and the many public fundraisers he has been holding in the region, Mr Mudavadi believes he stands a chance, no matter how small, of running away with crucial votes.

On Friday, Mr Mudavadi said he is focused on succeeding Mr Kenyatta in 2022.

He was Mr Kenyatta’s running-mate in 2002 when Narc kicked Kanu from power, as well as Mr Odinga’s partner in the 2007 disputed presidential election.

But Prof Ndege says “Musalia is taken as someone who is not serious”. “He is also soft, hence can be manipulated. Kenyans don’t want such a soft person. If the support is ethnic, his Luhya background is known to be divided like no other.”

GIDEON MOI

The other contender is Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, heir of the vast political empire of his father, retired President Daniel arap Moi.

Mr Moi seems to have learnt from the experiences of his past and knows that, while Kanu has enjoyed a rather emotional following as the independence party, a realistic stab at 2022 would involve other parties or coalitions.

Page 1 of 2