The latest opinion poll has sobering lessons for Nasa. The numbers do not look good as yet. A lot must be done to give the Opposition a fighting chance.
The excitement that has greeted the entry of the “new baby” notwithstanding, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recently reassembled Jubilee Party leads with 39 per cent approval ratings countrywide as compared to 32 per cent for the National Super Alliance (Nasa), which coalesces around Raila Odinga (Orange Democratic Movement), Kalonzo Musyoka Wiper Democratic Movement - Kenya), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya).
But even more pointed is the study’s indication that Nasa’s perceived strongholds of Western and Coast have the highest number of undecided voters at 40.4 and 35.3 per cent respectively. These regions accordingly remain fertile vote-hunting grounds for Jubilee and the Opposition.
The President’s party also has an improved showing in the Coast of 25.2 per cent compared to Nasa’s 39.6. This should worry Opposition strategists. Yet presently, Nasa member parties are embroiled in a tussle over whether or not to carry out joint nominations.
For example, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (ODM), who is seeking re-election, is pitted against Senator Hassan Omar and Nyali MP Hezron Awiti of Wiper.
Although this Infotrak study does not give approval ratings of individual aspirants, it posts ODM as the most popular party at 34 per cent as compared to Wiper’s seven per cent.
However, the two Nasa member parties jointly command less than 40 per cent of the vote.
In Nyanza region, another key Nasa stronghold, the coalition faces cut-throat competition mainly between ODM and Wiper in Kisii and Nyamira counties. In the wider Nyanza region, Jubilee rivals have a fair approval rating of 16 per cent.
In 2013, opinion pollsters and eventual poll results indicated the Opposition had a slight advantage of numbers over Jubilee in the city. However, except for the presidential and gubernatorial seats, where Cord tipped the scales, the Opposition lost the senatorial and woman representative seats, and a number of parliamentary positions, mainly because of internal competition.
Results in such areas have largely been attributed to internal competition in Cord, resulting in ODM, Wiper and Ford-Kenya parties splitting their votes to the advantage of the competitors in 2013. Going by recent pronouncements, it appears no lesson was learnt.
Competition within Nasa is intense at the moment. Some presidential aspirants have openly been playing hard and rough, including publicly discrediting competitors and even asking them to step down.
Yet according to the Infotrak study, the Nasa leaders have positive individual attributes and political experiences which, if combined, would make them an appealing team.
The poll identifies Mr Odinga as the most suitable candidate to fly the Nasa presidential flag. It lists his political experience, track record, popularity and good political networks as his key areas of strength.
Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi equally bring onboard Nasa a host of positive credentials. Mr Musyoka, a lawyer, is valued for his education and is identified as the most peaceful leader of the four. The survey singles out Mr Mudavadi as visionary, a leader with the highest integrity, and most acceptable of the four in other regions across Kenya.
Respondents separately list intelligence, the age factor and a good manifesto as among reasons for their preference of Mr Wetang’ula.
The aspect of appeal to voters in the rival camp is fairly crucial in winning elections. Towards this end, there is a near balance in the projected statistics. Judging from the perceived Nasa and Jubilee strongholds, the ruling party has so far progressed well in Western and coastal regions as has Nasa, which has recorded an impressive 33 per cent against Jubilee’s 40 per cent in the Eastern region.
But there is a whitewash of Nasa in Central and Rift Valley as is for Jubilee in Nyanza. It is curious, though, that in spite of its arsenal, including in the person of former Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa, Nasa is doing poorly in the larger Rift Valley. Mr Kirwa is a fairly high-profile politician, who previously served as a Summit member of the National Rainbow Coalition that subjected Kanu to an election waterloo in 2002.
Mr Kirwa is just one of the politically underutilised leaders in the Opposition. The Nasa leadership is perhaps still torn between him and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto in filling the Rift Valley region void.
Infotrak has mapped out the political landscape, giving an indicator of how the competing camps should best approach the forthcoming polls.
Most regions, except Nyanza and Central Kenya, are still open to political seduction.