Is Canaan real? We will know that in less than a week. Less than a week because after the vote is cast on August 8th, the electoral commission has up to seven days to announce the results of the Presidential results. Although we expect the incoming President to be known in a few hours after the voting ends at 5pm on Tuesday, Ezra Chiloba who is the CEO of IEBC has stated that the commission will try its best to provide the results within four days after the last vote is cast. So we will be waiting, but as we wait, are we able to determine with some level of accuracy who will carry the day? Certainly yes, and it boils down to these 5 counties whose votes will be more critical in determining who becomes Kenya’s president.
These 5 counties are not necessarily swing counties, but counties with rich votes whose impacts can have significant sway if they vote one way or the other. Stories aside, here are the 5 counties that we need to pay close attention to immediately the results will start streaming in.
1. Meru County
Meru county has 702,480 votes, enough votes that in a close election like the one we are currently having can easily determine the winner. In 2013, President Kenyatta garnered 89% of the Meru votes with his closest rival Raila Odinga garnering a paltry 8%. If Uhuru could turn Meru into one very strong Jubilee stronghold like Nyandarua where he garnered 94% of the votes, then Raila will have to struggle really hard even to force the elections into a run-off.
But Meru county seems to be a different story this election year. Gauging from the receptions Raila Odinga received during his visits to both Meru and Tharaka Nithi, analysts have seen the possibility that Raila has more than doubled his votes in the county. This perception was recently reinforced by the Meru TIFA Opinion Poll that gave Raila Odinga a whooping 19% rating, over and above the expectation that the county can only give Raila up to 15% of the votes. If Raila can get anything close to 20% of the Meru votes, then the NASA leader will be assured that any gains Uhuru Kenyatta may have made in counties like Tana River, Marsabit, Kilifi, Machakos and Kwale are effectively neutralized.
Since by voters registration Raila is already ahead by some 700,000 votes, then garnering over 100,000 votes from Meru would solidify this lead. In summary therefore, if Uhuru turns Meru into a very strong Jubilee stronghold as alluded to above, then Raila can only hope for a run-off. If however Meru votes as we expect it to vote, then Raila’s head start remains strong and he can easily win the elections with more than 51% of the votes.
2. Bomet County
In 2013 Raila Odinga managed to bag in some 700,000 votes from the entire Rift Valley. However, this election year the opposition leader is hoping to rip no less than 1 million votes from this votes rich region. According to the IEBC register, some 4.5 million voters are registered to vote in the Rift Valley, and these voters are mostly concentrated in Nakuru and Uasin Gishu, counties that are likely to vote for Raila Odinga at the rate of 30% each.
However, the game changer for Raila Odinga should come from Bome County where one of the NASA principals comes from. Bomet county has 322,012 registered voters, and if 2013 elections was to be considered, then President Kenyatta could garner some 93% of the votes compared to Raila’s 5% in 2017 elections. Isaac Ruto’s factor however has changed the political dynamics of this county where pundits expect the county to give Raila Odinga at least 30% of its votes.
If Raila gets 30% of the votes from Bomet county, and Kericho, Narok and Nakuru counties also follow suit to give Raila most of the Kipsigis votes, then we will be certain that Raila Odinga will take the presidency, even before the rest of the counties stream in their results.
3. Machakos County
Voters in Machakos that I have been in touch with tell me that the most Uhuru Kenyatta can get from their is 15%. Their intuition however goes against TIFA research that predicted a 37% score for Uhuru Kenyatta, and that’s the reason I have included Machakos in this list. 37% of Machakos votes would mean Uhuru Kenyatta garnering more than 200,000 votes from this NASA stronghold, and those votes would cancel out the gains Raila Odinga could have received from both Meru and Bomet counties.
It is important to note that in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta managed to get only 10% of the Machakos votes, so for him to penetrate that vast NASA stronghold and get the 37% will be really great for him. However, if Machakos decides to vote in the same pattern as it did in 2013 by giving Raila Odinga 87% of the votes, then at this stage there will be nothing Uhuru can do to salvage his presidency.
Machakos county is therefore the only hope Uhuru has to completely neutralize Raila’s penetration of Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Bomet counties.
4. Bungoma County
One of the reasons we are seeing Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta neck to neck in opinion polls is the high performance Uhuru Kenyatta is registering in Western region. In that region, the opinion polls are predicting that Uhuru Kenyatta will score up to 30% of the Western votes, a prediction that is completely going against the expectations of pundits given that for the first time the Western region is supposed to vote as block, down to the last man.
If Uhuru’s expected 30% performance in Western region is real, then the only county that could be giving him this high hopes is Bungoma. Someone may mention Ababu Namwamba’s work in Busia, but according to my informants in Budalangi, Namwamba may not even make it as an MP in Budalangi. Bungoma is not only the county that gave Uhuru Kenyatta the highest number of votes in the Western region in 2013 at 12%, but is also the only Western county where the incumbent governor is running under Jubilee ticket.
In a recent Infotrak poll Ken Lusaka scored 52%, against the expectations of many in Bungoma who have voiced their wishes that they cannot vote for a Jubilee candidate. It therefore implies that the majority who are silent are likely to vote for the incumbent, and it is also possible that these same voters would cast their presidential ballots for Uhuru Kenyatta.
If President Kenyatta was to get 30% of the Western votes, thereby garnering over half a million votes, and at the same time get the 37% of the Machakos votes, then he will have bridged the 700,000 votes that Raila has a heads start with. Indeed therefore, President Kenyatta garning 30% of Western votes and Raila Odinga failing to get the 20% of Meru and Tharaka Nithi votes and further 30% of Bomet votes will send this elections to a complete dead heat.
However, remember that although Uhuru may expect to get over half a million votes from Western region, the only county that can give him any significant votes is Bungoma, a county with 559,850 registered voters, half of which are likely to vote for governor Lusaka. Even if every Lusaka voter votes for Uhuru, and given that Kakamega, Vihiga and Busia will give him no more than 5% of the votes, the best Uhuru Kenyatta can hope for in the entire Western region is 250,000 votes, votes that should neutralize any gains Raila may make in Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Narok counties.
5. Nairobi County
Nairobi county is the ultimate decider on whether Uhuru Kenyatta retains his seat or Raila Odinga becomes the country’s fifth president. By voters registration, Nairobi is the king of them all, having witnessed some 2,250,853 registered voters. In 2013, Nairobians voted for Raila Odinga at the rate of 49% against Uhuru’s 47%.
In 2017 however, all opinion polls (Ipsos, Infotrak, TIFA) agree that Raila Odinga will increase his margin to 56% against Uhuru’s 40%. This huge margin implies that Raila has some 1.26 million votes to hope for in Nairobi county, against Uhuru’s 900 thousand, a 326, 000 gap that Raila would give Uhuru Kenyatta. Since by strongholds Raila is already ahead by 700,000, giving Uhuru a 300,000 gap in Nairobi would mean Raila emerging the winner with a gap of more than 1 million votes against his closest rival.
The analysis of Meru, Bomet in favor of Raila Odinga vs Machakos and Bungoma in favor of Uhuru Kenyatta neutralize each other, and thus if Nairobi votes at the rates of 55%+ for Raila Odinga, then the only way Uhuru Kenyatta can bridge this gap is if he scores significantly high in coast region and at the same time get all the half a million north eastern votes.
Nairobians, the ball is in your hands.
CONCLUSION ON THE 5 COUNTIES
Practically speaking, expect Raila to get at least 15% of both Meru and Tharaka Nithi votes. Also expect Uhuru Kenyatta to neutralize these votes by garnering at least 20% in Machakos. In Rift Valley, expect Raila to increase his vote basket in Bomet, Kericho, Narok, Kajiado, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties. Expect Uhuru Kenyatta to neutralize those gains by garnering some significant votes from Bungoma.
In north eastern, expect the two candidates to divide the votes down the middle. Also expect Uhuru to make significant inroads in coast especially in Tana River, Kilifi and Kwale counties.
Then expect Nairobi to vote for Raila Odinga at more than 55%. If therefore the turnout in NASA strongholds will be the same as Jubilee strongholds, expect Raila to become the 5th President after the election results are announced.