Kenya 2022: What to expect in this year’s most competitive elections

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Kenya 2022: Who will win the great race?

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 18:38

William Ruto and Raila Odinga
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta holds hands with Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), in Nairobi, Kenya, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Monica Mwangi

Political analysts have billed this year’s election as one of the most competitive in Kenya’s history, pitting deputy president William Ruto against the godfather of opposition politics Raila Odinga. There is already fear that the cut-throat competition for the top seat might fail to produce an outright winner hence forcing a run-off.

When presiding over his last Madaraka (internal self-rule) Day celebration on 1 June, President Uhuru Kenyatta breached protocol by barring his deputy from addressing the crowd as is normally the case during national events.

Kenyatta even avoided mentioning the names of  other top politicians who were present, including former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi.

The radical decision caught many by surprise, with the president’s close allies insisting he did not want his last national function as the head of state to be overshadowed by election politics, hence the reason why he neither gave Ruto nor Raila a chance to address the crowd. Ruto and Raila are involved in a fierce political battle to succeed Kenyatta, whose term comes to an end this year.

“There is no written law that the deputy president must be allowed to speak at national functions. It was the president’s last Madaraka day celebration [and] he did not want it to be politicised in the presence of the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Bio, who was our guest,” says Peter Munya, the cabinet secretary for agriculture and a close ally of Kenyatta.

Competitive politics

The president’s action is proof that the stakes are too high in this year’s election and can only be compared to that of the disputed 2007 plebiscite that plunged the country into violence, leaving more than 1000 people dead.

It is also a unique election given the fact that it is the first one to be held in an environment where a sitting president and his deputy do not see eye to eye.

Under the new constitution, the president and his deputy are elected under a joint ticket hence the former has no powers to sack the latter as was the case under the old order.

Emboldened by the new constitutional order, Ruto has openly defied his boss, blaming him and his handshake partner Raila for all the socio-economic mess bedevilling the country, while taking credit for the achievements made by the outgoing government.

The deputy president has even managed to inspire dissent against the head of state in his Mt Kenya backyard, resulting in mass exodus of area legislators from the ruling Jubilee party to Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

“President Kenyatta betrayed Ruto by supporting his fierce rival [Raila] Odinga and that is why many of us abandoned the Jubilee party. We decided that we are going to keep the promise we made in 2017 to support Ruto for president in the 2022 general election,” says Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, one of the Mt Kenya legislators who abandoned Jubilee for UDA.

Politics of betrayal

Kenyatta’s allies however term their colleagues as betrayers who are thankless for the help they received from the head of state.

“These rebels actually won their parliamentary seats in 2017 by riding on President Kenyatta’s popularity. They are in fact the real betrayers,” says Kieni MP Kanini Kega, an ally of Kenyatta.

President Kenyatta betrayed Ruto by supporting his fierce rival [Raila] Odinga and that is why many of us abandoned the Jubilee party

It is also the first time the populous Mt Kenya will not be fielding a strong presidential candidate since the advent of pluralism in 1991 making it a swing-vote region.

So important is the region that the two top candidates – Ruto and Raila – nominated persons from Mt Kenya as running mates to attract the 5-million plus registered voters. Ruto nominated Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua while Raila settled on former Justice Minister Martha Karua.

Both Ruto and Raila have crafted formidable coalitions attracting nationwide support. Raila’s Azimio coalition comprises 29 political parties while the deputy president’s Kenya Kwanza alliance has 12.

Though 47 Kenyans had expressed interest for the top seat, only four met the stringent election requirements. Apart from Ruto and Raila, the other two are Prof George Wajackoyah of Roots party and David Waihiga of Agano party.

It is not only the country’s chief executive that Kenyans will be electing on 9 August, but also 290 MPs, 47 governors, 47 senators, 47 women representatives and 1450 members of county assemblies.

82 political parties

A total of 82 political parties will participate in the elections, after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) approved their nomination rules.

However, due to the shambolic party nominations, a record number have opted to run as independent candidates making the competition for elective seats even more fierce.

According to the IEBC, more than 5,000 individuals will vie for various elective seats as independent candidates, with county assembly posts attracting the highest number.

“This year’s election will see the highest number of independent candidates winning various seats due to the poor party nominations conducted by both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza coalitions,” says John Charo, a political analyst.

The official two-month campaign period, which kicked off on 29 May is expected to end on 6 August, two days before the general election.

Like past elections, issues dominating campaign rallies are the high cost of living, youth unemployment,  access to quality healthcare and education, corruption, equitable share of resources and insecurity.

Ambitious promises

The two top contenders have made ambitious promises, which political analysts argue will be hard to implement given the poor state of the economy and the rising public debt.

Both Ruto and Raila, for example, have promised double-digit economic growth, free education and healthcare, new industries in every county and a  multi-million kitty for women and youth among others.

“Voters should be careful not to take everything politicians say as gospel truth because some of the promises are hollow and are only meant to attract votes,” says Githinji Kariuki, a tax expert.

Promises aside, concerns linger as to whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is fully prepared to conduct free and fair elections.

Early this month, nine civil society organisations wrote to the IEBC, highlighting 10 areas that could compromise the elections.

If the voter’s register is not thoroughly cleaned then I fear we might end up with a disputed election

The organisations alleged massive inefficiencies, negligence and outright corruption in the IEBC’s procurement and other electoral management operations.

An audit conducted by the consultancy firm KPMG red flagged issues in the voter register that the IEBC must address to win public confidence, which has remained low since the bungled 2017 presidential election.

According to the audit, out of the 22,152,441 registered voters, 246,465 are dead, 481,711 have duplicated records, 226,143 have false identity, 164,269 have invalid identifications, bringing the total number of red flagged cases to 1,118,588.

“If the voter’s register is not thoroughly cleaned then I fear we might end up with a disputed election, IEBC must take the KPMG audit report very seriously,” says Charo.

Chief Justice Martha Koome has also urged the IEBC to show proof that it has addressed integrity issues that led to the nullification of the 2017 presidential election.

“Failure to demonstrate the same could have serious implications in the integrity of this year’s elections.”

Key dates in the run-up to Kenya’s 2022 general election:

  1. January 20, 2022 – Gazetted date of 2022 General Election, August 9
  2. February 19, 2022 – Resignation deadline for State officers intending to vie
  3. April 9, 2022 – Deadline for submission of party membership lists to IEBC
  4. April 22, 2022 – Deadline for party primaries
  5. May 2, 2022 – Deadline for independent candidates to join parties, submit names and symbols
  6. May 13, 2022 – Gazetted independent candidates’ names and symbols
  7. May 23, 2022 – Deadline to submit statutory requirements for Presidential Election candidates (both political party sponsored and independent candidates)
  8. May 29, 2022 – Start of the official campaign period
  9. June 1, 2022 – IEBC registers governor and county woman representative candidates
    • June 2, 2022 – Deadline for verification of voters’ register
    • June 7, 2022 – Ballot proofreading
    • June 9, 2022 – Deadline for resolution of nomination disputes
    • June 20, 2022 – IEBC publishes a complete list of all registered candidates
  10. July 25, 2022 – Deadline for parties and candidates to submit names of their National and Constituency Chief Election Agents
  11. August 6, 2022 – End of the official campaign period
  12. August 9, 2022 – Election Day

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options
Also in this in Depth:

Kenya 2022: Voters fear election violence from resurgent Mungiki sect

With elections in Kenya just two months away, voters are worried about the resurgence of the violent Mungiki gang that unleashed ethnic violence across the country after the 2007 poll.

Kenya: Who’s who in Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja alliance?

Presidential contender and former prime minister Raila Odinga is counting on his skills in building a coalition to take on deputy president William Ruto in the August 2022 polls. One Kenya Alliance leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi have joined Raila's Azimio la Umoja coalition, setting the stage for a face-off with deputy president William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Kenya 2022: Who’s who in William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance?

In early April, Deputy President William Ruto, a presidential contender, admitted eight new people to his Kenya Kwanza Alliance, bringing the total number of political parties to 12. However, unlike Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja - a registered coalition party - Kenya Kwanza is an alliance of parties. We outline those closest to Ruto in the alliance.

Kenya: Why Raila & Ruto remain quiet on land justice issues

For the first time in decades, Kenya’s leading presidential candidates are skirting around the explosive issue of land justice – instead of exploiting it as a way to mobilise voters to their campaigns.   Both candidates – for different reasons – have chosen to accept the status quo on legal regime on land rights

Kenya 2022: Who is Rigathi Gachagua, Ruto’s running mate?

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has picked an ardent critic of President Uhuru Kenyatta to deputise him for the next five years should he win the August presidential election.

Kenya 2022: Raila promises the moon with Azimio manifesto

Presidential candidate Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition manifesto promises voters a range of freebies that many political analysts believe will be impossible to fully deliver if he wins the 9 August elections. Will Kenya's 22 million registered voters take the bait?

Can Kenya’s ‘Iron Lady’ Martha Karua push Raila over the top?

Presidential candidate Raila Odinga made Kenyan history this month when he chose as his running mate the first woman to ever join a major party ticket. But will she be able to push the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance leader to the top?

Kenya 2022: Your guide to the four presidential candidates

On 9 August, more than 22 million Kenyan voters will head to polling stations to choose who will be their leader for the next five years. Four men have presented themselves to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. Who are they, and what are they offering?

Kenya 2022: Is Kenyatta losing his grip to Ruto in home turf of Kiambu County?

Kenya’s general election has been billed as a contest between political dynasties versus self-made politicians. Kiambu County, which is part of the larger Mt. Kenya region, has traditionally been a vote bank for President Uhuru Kenyatta. But with Deputy President William Ruto gaining in strength, will this election mark the end of Kenyatta influence on Kiambu politics?

Kenya 2022: Electoral battlegrounds to watch during polling day

Kenya's two leading presidential candidates are banking on voter turnout in their respective regional strongholds to win the coveted prize. Final opinion polls show former Prime Minister Raila Odinga pulling ahead of Deputy President William Ruto, but a run-off — the first in the nation's history — looms as a possibility. Which regions will determine the big race?

Kenya 2022 elections: Taxes, costlier loans top concerns for businesses ahead of polls

What does Kenya's business community want from the new government that is set to be elected on 9 August?

Kenya 2022: Whose mobilising strategy will win voters?

As Kenya's election day nears, the top presidential contenders William Ruto and Raila Odinga have shifted focus on getting out the vote to ensure a first round win. Who will have the perfect strategy to deliver the knock-out blow on 9 August?

Kenya 2022: Who will be crowned leader of voter-rich Nakuru county?

Kenya’s top presidential candidates William Ruto and Raila Odinga have been competing for attention in the voter-rich Rift Valley region.

Kenya: Why arrest of Venezuelans fuels fear of post-poll turmoil

What appeared as a normal arrest of  a foreigner at Kenya’s main airport has now turned into a major row between the electoral commission and the police, threatening to throw one of the country’s most competitive elections into disarray. Will the elections be deemed credible after all is done and dusted?

Kenya 2022: Could George Wajackoyah force a runoff between Ruto and Odinga?

Kenya's fringe presidential candidate George Wajackoyah is causing shockwaves in the political battlefield with some analysts fearing that his rising popularity might force a run-off for the first time in the country’s history. Is the Wajackoyah effect real or just a passing cloud?

Kenya 2022: Debt, corruption, and living costs top concerns as Kenyans go to polls

A mix of fear and hope hangs over Kenya as more than 22 million registered voters get the chance to elect the country’s next president on Tuesday.

As Kenya voted, the East Africa region watched in awe, desperation

The East African region has been watching Kenya's recent elections unfold. In Uganda, the election evoked recollections of last year's election, which were characterised by violence meted out on opposition politicians. In South Sudan, one of the countries where Kenyans in the diaspora voted, its citizens wondered when their country will hold its first election. Meanwhile, many Tanzanians praised the maturity of Kenya’s democracy.

Kenya elections 2022: Results awaited as candidates ask why so many people did not vote

As Kenyans wait for final results of the tight presidential race pitting deputy president William Ruto against former prime minister Raila Odinga, questions still linger why Kenyans defied the clarion call to turn out in large numbers and vote. Why did millions of Kenyans stay away?

Kenya 2022: International observers praise voting, warn on disinformation

As Kenyans wait for the final presidential results, international observers – in their preliminary reports – say the voting exercise was largely peaceful, even though there has been spread of disinformation that confused some voters.

Kenya 2022: Elections marred by low-voter turnout, technology failure, bribery

After the polls in one of Kenya’s most competitive elections ended on Tuesday evening, the focus now shifts to counting the presidential votes. Who between William Ruto and Raila Odinga will win the coveted prize?

Kenya 2022: Why Kenyans must wait before results are announced

22.1 million Kenyan voters are expected to head to their voting stations to choose who their leaders for the next five years will be. However, Kenyans will have to wait nearly a week to find out who will be the winner of this highly anticipated election due to the strict legal regime of the tallying process. We break down the process and voting technicalities.

Kenya 2022: Ruto declared winner of presidential election, Raila to contest in court

After nearly a week of tallying ballots, Kenya's Independent Electoral Bureau Commission (IEBC) has officially declared Deputy President William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance as the fifth president of the country.

Kenya 2022: Raila and Ruto are poaching star journalists as the independent media declines

With less than six months before one of the tightest presidential elections in Kenya’s history, the two main contenders have recruited journalists for leading roles in their campaign.

Kenya: Why does the electoral commission struggle with elections each time?

Despite being allocated billions of shillings every five years, the electoral body continues to fail the test of delivering a free, fair and verifiable presidential election leaving many voters worried about the country’s political future. Is delivering an uncontested presidential election in Kenya an impossible task? And what really happened this time round?