Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s popularity has shot up dramatically in Deputy President William Ruto’s vast, vote-rich Rift Valley turf, a poll indicates.
His national ratings are also surging, suggesting a close race, even a run-off in August.
Analysis of the latest Ipsos opinion poll indicates NASA’s presidential flagbearer is regaining a foothold in the region that overwhelmingly supported him in 2007 against Mwai Kibaki.
Some analysts say major factors influencing Raila’s popularity include Jubilee’s problems. These include the poor state of agriculture, food insecurity, inflation, the high cost of living, some unfulfilled campaign promises and fears Mt Kenya will not support DP Ruto in 2022.
The survey released on Tuesday suggests Raila’s support in the August 8 polls in Rift Valley alone has grown by 12 per cent over five months from 26 per cent to 38 per cent.
The poll indicates President Uhuru Kenyatta is still far ahead at 63 per cent.
Similarly, his national rating has risen by a 13 per cent margin from 29 per cent to 42 per cent.
Uhuru’s overall rating, on the other hand, has stagnated at 47 per cent.
The random, face-to-face poll of 2.026 registered voters was conducted between My 11 and 23 at the household level in 46 counties. It has a margin of error of +/-2.18 per cent, with a 95 per cent confidence level.
Participants were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held at that time.
In January this year, three months before NASA announced Raila as its presidential candidate on April 27, another Ipsos poll gave Raila 20 per cent support in the Rift Valley. Uhuru’s backing was 62 per cent.
Political analyst Herman Manyora says while Uhuru has also gained in opposition zones, Jubilee should rethink its game plan in the Kalenjin nation.
“For me that 32 per cent for Raila, over and above what is happening, Uhuru gaining in the Coast and Western, appears to signal things to come. Jubilee should watch out carefully,” Manyora, a Nairobi University lecturer told the Star yesterday.
In 2013, Raila got less than 10 per cent in most Kalenjin-dominated counties. Uhuru got up to 92 per cent in Elgeyo Marakwet and Bomet.
At that time, Raila scored 4.84 per cent in Elgeyo Marakwet, 9.41 per cent in Baringo, 4.61 per cent in Bomet and 6.95 per cent in Kericho.
Uhuru got 87.93 per cent in Baringo and 90.74 per cent in Kericho.
Explaining the shifts, Uasin Gishu ODM chairman Kipkorir Menjo said, “In Jubilee, we have seen more dealers than leaders and this has discouraged many.”
“They talked of double-digit economic growth but what we are seeing is double-digit inflation. Mismanaging agriculture has contributed to food insecurity. There are weather challenges but the biggest problem was fake fertiliser.”
Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno said Raila’s ratings will continue rising “because the Kalenjin nation has lost trust in Jubilee due to corruption and high cost of living”.
Borrowing from Jubilee’s famous 2013 ‘tyranny of numbers’, NASA strategists say this time the election is Raila’s to lose.
In their analysis, NASA has about 9.77 million registered voters, hence, the slogan “10 million strong”.
This includes 2.6 million votes from the Luhya, 2.2 million from Kamba, 2 million from Luo Nyanza, 1.8 million from the Coast and 970,000 from Kisii.
Strategists say Uhuru can only win as many as 6.1 million votes. These include 2.8 million from the Kikuyu community, 2.3 million from Kalenjin and 1 million from Upper Eastern.
The 1.4 million Somali votes and the Maasai’s 1 million are considered swing.
To reinforce its traction in Jubilee bastions and strengthen its grip on its own strongholds, NASA has also unveiled a detailed strategy involving tailor-made regional manifestos.
The country is clustered into five regions with specific economic blueprints. They are Northeastern, Western/Nyanza, Nairobi, Mount Kenya East and West, Rift Valley and Coast.
The Rift blueprint has not been revealed.
Aiming to lock out Uhuru from Western, the opposition on Saturday will unveil its Western Province Investment Plan focussing on economic potential.
The President would win Central Kenya by 88 per cent, Rift Valley 63 percent and Eastern51 per cent. However, Uhuru would only get 17 per cent in Western, 39 per cent in Nairobi and 23 per cent at the Coast.
Raila would win Nyanza by 86 per cent, Western with 78 per cent, Coast by 69 percent, North Esatern 61% and Nairobi by 51 percent.
NASA’s Western blueprint to be launched in Bukhungu Stadium on Saturday aims to unlock the region’s untapped opportunities, including sugarcane farming.