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NAIROBI, Kenya — One is the self-proclaimed champion of the “hustler nation.” The opposite is a veteran leftist operating for prime workplace for the fifth time. Each are merchandise of Kenya’s calcified and corruption-ridden political system, however declare they’ll remodel it, if elected president.
The shut race to guide Kenya, the pioneering East African nation, is reaching its climax on Tuesday, as 22 million registered voters face a selection between William Ruto, 55, the nation’s present vp, and Raila Odinga. , a 77-year-old politician. veteran who’s making his fifth run for president.
Days earlier than the vote, the race was thrilling: a testomony to the maturity of Kenya’s democracy, which, regardless of its faults, contrasts with different African international locations the place once-high democratic hopes have given technique to bogus votes. and navy coups lately. .
To its Western allies, that is one motive why Kenya, a burgeoning tech hub, main counterterrorism associate and anchor of stability in a area wracked by famine and battle, is extra essential than ever.
Nonetheless, Kenyan elections have a historical past of being messy and unpredictable affairs. Earlier polls had been marred by widespread violence, prolonged courtroom dramas and, in 2017, the homicide of a prime election official simply days earlier than the election.
To this point this 12 months, the election season has been largely quiet, even with some hopeful indicators of change. The corrosive ethnic politics which have dictated Kenyan politics for many years are exhibiting indicators of easing. Fewer individuals fled their properties earlier than the vote, fearing homes can be set on hearth, than earlier than.
On Tuesday, Kenyans started queuing exterior polling stations earlier than daybreak, in a mid-morning vote that was continuing easily throughout the nation regardless of stories of delayed openings in some areas and difficulties with the biometric system used. to establish voters in others.
Outcomes are anticipated to begin coming in later within the week, together with, virtually inevitably, claims of rigging by the loser, so keen Kenyans will likely be holding their breath till then.
The 2 foremost candidates are distinguished by each type and substance. Mr. Ruto is the self-styled champion of Kenya’s “con males”: the lots of annoyed younger individuals, lots of them poor, struggling to make it in life. “Each Hustle Issues” reads the slogan on his bling-out marketing campaign automobile.
Mr. Ruto is decided and impressive, though he additionally has a fame for cruelty. A decade in the past, he confronted trial on the Worldwide Prison Courtroom on fees of orchestrating violence after the 2007 elections, by which greater than 1,200 individuals had been killed. The case collapsed in 2016 after the Kenyan authorities withdrew its cooperation and key witnesses recanted their testimony about him.
Mr. Odinga, the scion of a Kenyan political dynasty, gives familiarity (he has been vying for prime workplace for the reason that Nineties) in addition to a way of historic vindication. His quite a few failures to win the presidency have deepened a way of resentment amongst his fellow Luo, Kenya’s fourth largest ethnic group, for by no means having held the very best place within the nation.
He was broadly praised for the selection of his operating mate, Martha Karua, a lawyer with a file of principled activism who, if elected, can be Kenya’s first feminine vp.
Nevertheless, Mr. Odinga’s success on this election is especially resulting from a political alliance, referred to as “the handshake”, that he achieved in 2018 with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
That deal ensured that Kenyatta, from the dominant Kikuyu ethnic group, backed Odinga and in flip made him an enemy of Kenyatta’s deputy, Ruto, who spent a lot of the marketing campaign criticizing his former boss.
The successful candidate wants 50 p.c of the votes, plus yet one more. However a 3rd candidate, George Wajackoyah, who’s campaigning on a platform of marijuana legalization and, extra unusually, the sale to China of hyena testicles, mentioned to have medicinal worth, could possibly be a spoiler.
If Wajackoyah can convert his help base, estimated at 3 p.c in a single ballot, into votes, he might deny the key candidates a majority and push the vote right into a second spherical.
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