The race for the Nairobi governor’s seat is set to be a tight affair, with the incumbent Evans Kidero and challenger Mike Sonko separated by only a percentage point.
The Nairobi County Opinion Polls report released on Thursday by the research company Trends and Insights For Africa has Governor Kidero of the Orange Democratic Movement at 44 per cent against Senator Sonko of the Jubilee Party at 43 per cent.
Two other prominent candidates were ranked way below, with former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth with just 4 per cent, followed by Mr Miguna Miguna, a former aide of ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga, at 1 per cent. Both are independent candidates.
Mr Kenneth was expected to make a considerable impact after leaving Jubilee in a huff on losing the nomination to Mr Sonko. He was expected to eat into the votes of both Mr Sonko and Dr Kidero and emerge a credible third candidate, but the poll shows otherwise.
Three other challengers Godfrey Wanyoike (independent), Michael Mutinda (Agano Party) and Macharia Maina had zero per cent.
Interestingly, undecided voters accounted for 8 per cent, translating to 180,068 registered voters, according to figures by the electoral commission that shows that Nairobi has 2,250,853 registered voters. This is a huge figure that could swing the outcome to any side, considering the small gap between the two top candidates.
Tifa director Maggie Ireri said the two leading governor candidates were attracting voters from various political parties. Mr Sonko is drawing a higher proportion of supporters not from his party, with 12 per cent of supporters of the National Super Alliance willing to vote for him, compared to Dr Kidero, who would only get 2 per cent backing from Jubilee supporters.
The poll found that a significant number of respondents were unlikely to follow the six-piece voting, preferring to evaluate candidates on other attributes apart from political party affiliation.
“Evans Kidero basically is in the lead because of the Nasa supporters but Mike Sonko, although the Jubilee Party supporters are fewer, is able to attract supporters from other parties,” said Ms Ireri.
Dr Kidero is weighed down by the burden of incumbency, where he is being judged on service delivery and development record during his tenure while Mr Sonko comes up against perceptions that he has no expertise or skills, and low education level to manage the county.
In the Senate race, Jubilee’s Johnson Sakaja led his closest opponent, lawyer Edwin Sifuna of ODM, by 11 per cent, polling 39 per cent against Mr Sifuna’s 28 per cent, but undecided voters also took a huge chunk of the votes at 29 per cent.
In the woman representative race, ODM’s Esther Passaris had 57 per against Jubilee’s Rachel Shebesh at 25 per cent. Other candidates — Wiper’s Rahab Ndambuki and Ms Nadya Khan were at 1 per cent, way below the undecided voters at 15 per cent.
Interestingly, popular radio presenter Maina Kageni of Classic FM also got rated at 1 per cent popularity, though he is not a candidate and not even eligible to contest a seat reserved for women.
A few weeks ago, the radio personality released a video declaring his candidacy for the Nairobi woman representative position, but it seems some voters took the joke seriously and mentioned him in the poll, which asked an open-ended question rather than provide a list.
Reacting to the poll, Mr Sonko asked his supporters not to be worried but soldier on as he was set to win the election.
“I cannot oppose the poll because it is the right of the people of Nairobi to express themselves in the best way they know but the sample is not even one per cent of the total number of registered voters and, therefore, it did not bring out the true feelings of the people,” he said when he met members of the Luhya community living in Nairobi.
In the political party’s preference, Nasa is the most popular party in Nairobi, with 56 per cent, against Jubilee’s 34 per cent, with 9 per cent being undecided.
Nasa’s popularity has been rising in the capital, with the opposition outfit enjoying 38 per cent in July, 2016, rising to 47 per cent in February this year.
On the other hand, it has been a topsy-turvy affair for the Jubilee Party, with the outfit having had a 38 per cent rating in July last year, which rose to 42 per cent in February this year, but has since plummeted to the current 34 per cent.
Nasa also enjoys more support in the 17 constituencies in the county, with 10 being categorised as its strongholds. They include Ruaraka; Kibra; Dagoretti North and South; Embakasi South, Central and East; Starehe; Lang’ata; and Mathare. Jubilee has only four constituencies Roysambu, Kamukunji, Embakasi North and Kasarani, with Westlands, Makadara and Embakasi West put as battlegrounds.
Additional reporting by Lillian Mutavi and Ibrahim Oruko.