Why villagers love Uhuru and urbanites don’t back him

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Nic CheesemanIn his bi-monthly column for The Daily Nation, our Co-editor Nic Cheeseman asks what the latest Ipsos Synovate poll can tell us about Kenyan political perspectives: How free and fair did people think the election was? How likely are the Jubilee Alliance to stick together? Why had Kenyatta won the election when Odinga had previously been so popular? In this first release of the poll results we get an insight into the broad picture of national opinion and a crucial sense of regional differentiation.


President Kenyatta has now been in office for 100 days. But what do Kenyans think of their new president, and what do they want him to do? An opinion poll conducted by Ipsos Synovate on June 30 asked Kenyans what they think about Kenyatta. The findings – released here for the first time – reveal the opportunities and challenges facing the Jubilee Alliance.

Fifty one per cent report ‘a lot of confidence’ while a further 29 per cent has ‘some confidence’. Women are more likely to trust the President than men. But these positive headlines mask a lot of important regional variation. Unsurprisingly, Kenyans living in the former Central Province, have almost complete confidence in Uhuru, while those in what used to be the Coast, Nyanza, and Western provinces have yet to be convinced. Urbanites are also less willing to trust the President, which should be a cause for concern for the Jubilee Alliance. At present, Nairobi is more sceptical then either the Coast or Western, and there is a real possibility that the Jubilee Alliance could become increasingly dependent on rural votes if it fails to reverse this trend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rift Valley falls somewhere in-between Central Province and the rest – the alliance with Deputy President William Ruto still appears to be paying dividends for Uhuru in this part of Kenya.

In this regard, it is interesting to note that despite all of the speculation about if and when Kenyatta and Ruto will fall out, more Kenyans think that the Jubilee Alliance will stay together (54 per cent) than Cord (38 per cent). The lack of confidence in the opposition’s long-term prospects seems to reflect a lack of trust in Kalonzo Musyoka to stay by Raila Odinga’s side, and the uncertainty over the future of Raila himself. A strong majority of Kenyans (60 per cent) thinks that Raila should stay active in politics, which is impressive given that he has never secured more than 50 per cent of the vote in a general election. But only 32 per cent believe that he should contest the presidency in five years’ time, which suggests that even a number of Cord voters have lost faith in Mr Odinga’s ability to win power.

In part, this negative attitude towards Raila’s candidature in 2018 appears to be rooted in negative evaluations of Cord’s election performance. Respondents were asked why they thought that Mr Kenyatta had won the election when Mr Odinga had been more popular in the previous three years. The three most popular answers were that Jubilee’s campaign was better financed and organised (33 per cent), that Mr Kenyatta had a more effective running mate (24 per cent), and that Mr Kenyatta had performed better in the debates (22 per cent). ODM’s mismanagement of party nominations was also identified as a significant factor by 10 per cent of respondents, while eight per cent pointed to Raila’s age as the most important stumbling block. Although many Kenyans have doubts about the integrity of the polls, only 26 per cent believe that Mr Odinga would have won more votes than Mr Kenyatta if they had been counted fairly.

From the campaign, four Jubilee campaign promises have proved to be particularly memorable: a laptop per child, greater funding for healthcare, raising the standard of education, and keeping Kenya safe and secure. The Jubilee team would do well to make a note of that list, because it is what Kenyans are likely to judge them on come the next election.

Despite recognising the superiority of Mr Kenyatta’s campaign, many Kenyans continue to believe that the election was rigged. Although 60 per cent rate the presidential election as ‘completely free and fair’, 23 per cent believe that it was ‘not free and fair’. Unsurprisingly, this rises to 42 per cent in Nyanza, but the proportion of people who dispute the election result is also high in Nairobi (32 per cent). Moreover, almost all Kenyans agree that the presidential election was the least free and fair of the six contests, with the elections for governors and senators getting the cleanest bill of health. However, only a relatively small proportion of Kenyans report having seen electoral malpractices first hand. Sixteen per cent personally witnessed electoral offences, the most common of which were the absence of names on the electoral register, the buying of ID cards, and the importation of voters.

Despite the fact that many Kenyans did not personally experience electoral malpractice, the perception that the election results were manipulated during the counting and aggregation process has dented public trust in a number of important institutions like the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Only 32 per cent of Kenyans report having ‘a lot’ of confidence in IEBC while 22 per cent have ‘no confidence at all’. In line with these results, only 28 per cent of Kenyans believe that the IEBC should remain as it is and a further 36 per cent believe that there should be more oversight of IEBC’s activities. A significant number wants the agency’s bosses to face the music, with 19 per cent believing that all of the commissioners should resign. About nine per cent said that they should be prosecuted. The election controversy also appears to have shaken confidence in the Chief Justice, whose personal rating (31 per cent) is lower than that of the Supreme Court (34 per cent). Significantly, 48 per cent of Kenyans believe that the president will do a better job of growing the economy.

Though 2,000 people were sampled for this opinion poll which had a three per cent margin of error, its results cannot be ignored.

This column originally appeared in the Daily Nation on 2nd August 2013.

The Daily Nation is the largest newspaper in East Africa with a daily circulation of around 205,000.

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