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{UAH} Support for Kenyan Opposition Candidate Rises a Week Before Vote

Support for Kenyan Opposition Candidate Rises a Week Before Vote

  • Opinion polls show no candidate will secure first-round win
  • Killing of electoral official seen raising political tensions

Raila Odinga speaks during a news conference at his headquarters in central Nairobi, Kenya, on July 20, 2017.

Photographer: Riccardo Gangale/Bloomberg

Kenyan opposition candidate Raila Odinga drew more support from voters in three opinion polls as he prepares to take on President Uhuru Kenyatta in next week's election, raising the likelihood of a runoff vote.

Polls released on Tuesday showed Odinga is favored by as much as 49 percent of the electorate, compared with as little as 42 percent two months ago. Kenyatta is backed by up to 48 percent of voters, down from a high of 49 percent, according to the surveys.

"The race is going to be very close," Jared Jeffery, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics, said in an emailed research note. "Odinga's ascendancy in the polls points to a possible runoff."

Kenyan elections heighten investor concerns because of unrest that's occurred during three of the past five national votes. Odinga has warned he won't concede defeat and his supporters may take to the streets if the polls aren't deemed credible. The risk of violence in the aftermath of the Aug. 8 vote increased this week after the murder of a key official in charge of the electronic-voting system at the country's electoral body.

"It is almost certain that the poll results on Aug. 8 will be contested, with speculation of vote-rigging fueling violent reactions by supporters of the opposition and incumbent," Ahmed Salim, a Dubai-based vice president at Teneo Strategy, said in an emailed research note.

Odinga, 72, has failed on three previous occasions to win the presidency and is counting on his supporters turning out in large numbers to beat the incumbent. To win, he needs more than 50 percent of the vote and a quarter of ballots in half of Kenya's 47 counties. Kenyatta, 55, won the last election in 2013 with a less than a tenth-of-a-percentage-point majority and may benefit from a second round, when only a simple majority is required for victory.

"Kenyatta has a slight edge in any second round because of the advantage of incumbency and his Jubilee Party has more resources to campaign for a simple majority win," said Mathias Muindi, an analyst at Control Risks.

Ipsos Kenya, a pollster based in the capital, Nairobi, said Odinga's support was at 44 percent on July 31. That compared with 43 percent on July 24 and 42 percent in May. Kenyatta's support has remained constant at 47 percent, according to the pollster, which surveyed 4,308 respondents.

Infotrak, also based in Nairobi, put Odinga in the lead with 49 percent, against Kenyatta's 48 percent -- a rise of 2 points each on the pollster's July 24 findings. The two main candidates have near-equal support in 38 counties and the outcome will depend on who gets most votes in the remaining nine, according to Infotrak, which spoke to 5,000 voters.

A third poll conducted by the Nairobi-based Star newspaper showed Odinga's backing rose to 46 percent from 44 percent on July 19, while Kenyatta's support dropped to 47 percent from 49 percent.


Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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