Kenyans are divided right in the middle on whether Opposition leader Raila Odinga should vie for presidency in the next General Election.
According to findings of a latest opinion poll, one third of the respondents are of the view that the former Prime Minister should “retire from politics completely”, with a statistically identical proportion (34%) holding the opposite view – that he should remain active and even contest the next presidential election.
Most of those who want Raila out of next presidential race, according to the Ipsos Synovate poll, are backers of his main political rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee. Of the Jubilee supporters interviewed, 53 per cent want him to quit politics as compared to eight per cent Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) supporters.
“Of course it had to be Jubilee supporters who are against Raila vying for presidency because they know he is a strong opponent. But Raila is not seeking to vie on a Jubilee ticket so they have no business telling us who we should nominate,” Junnet Mohammed, who is director of campaigns of Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) told The Standard on Sunday.
The findings of the study, released yesterday are curious considering that Raila’s fellow co-principals in the CORD coalition, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula have separately expressed interest in vying for the presidency under the coalition’s ticket. Bring on Raila
“Much as the former Prime Minister is a strong brand and has a good showing in opinion polls, he still needs the support of his colleagues (Kalonzo and Wetangula) to win the bigger prize,” says Junnet. But Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) vice chairman David Murathe claims Raila is not a political threat: “We would rather have Raila on the ballot because we at least have designed a formula of dealing with him.
A new face could be challenging as we might not know how to deal with him.” Reached for comment, ODM’s director of political affairs Opiyo Wandayi dismissed the opinion polls “at this particular time” as diversionary, “Elections are still far away and what would be expected now are polls that gauge the performance of the incumbent government against the expectations of the people”.
The Ugenya MP claims that one does not require a poll to determine the popularity of ODM and its party leader, “because the answer is obvious”. Murathe similarly blames pollsters like Ipsos of plunging the country into a perpetual campaign mode. This plus the opposition’s continuous politicking, observes the JAP official, is a deliberate ploy meant to dissuade the President from delivering on his campaign pledges.
But Ipsos’ research analyst Dr Tom Wolf points out that Ipsos carries out quarterly polls on various issues on “national interest” and not party politics alone. Before the current release, the researcher says they have released surveys on corruption, insecurity and digital migration. Respondents totaling 1,964 from across the country participated in the survey conducted between March 28 and April 7.
And within CORD, the latest figures point to an increase in the percentage of Raila’s acceptability. At the same time in May last year, more people (11 per cent) were of the opinion that Raila should not contest in future elections.
Among those interviewed, 67 per cent of the CORD supporters want Raila to remain active in politics while only 14 per cent Jubilee supporters want him to stay on. In terms of trends, Wolf observes that the proportion of those wanting the Orange Democratic Movement leader to contest has indeed risen significantly to 10 per cent since last year’s 4th Quarter survey.
IEBC’s poor rating The Orange party is the largest political party within CORD. In fact, according to the poll, ODM is even more popular than the CORD coalition to which it is an affiliate party. The poll rates JAP as the single most popular political party within the Jubilee coalition. (see separate story). But noting that the JAP is barely four months old, Murathe considers the rating of the President’s party as extremely good. “We only have one MP and one MCA compared ODM, which has the majority elected members across the country. ODM should do much better because it is an old story that even some of us were part of way back in 2005,” he said.
The credibility of the electoral body also features in the Ipsos study and findings show a clear relationship between those who support Raila and lack of confidence in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
For example, Dr Wolf explains that among those who want Raila to contest the next election, more than three quarters (77 per cent) do not think the IEBC has sufficient confidence among the public to manage them. “Conversely, those who prefer that Raila retires from politics completely, a clear majority (56 per cent) believe the public has sufficient confidence in the IEBC to manage the next,” he says.