Opposition leaders Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Raila Odinga (ODM) during a NASA rally at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, January 11 / MONICAH MWANGI
A majority of Kenyans believe that fronting a single candidate is the most formidable opposition strategy to topple President Uhuru Kenyatta, new poll findings indicate.
On Tuesday, the opposition’s National Super Alliance, NASA, unveiled a 12-member team to lead the search for a joint presidential candidate in the August 8 election.
On Saturday NASA holds its first rally in a show of unity, making an incursion into DP William Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard. It will be in Bomet and hosted by Governor Isaac Rutto who has denied reports he would join NASA.
The Ipsos survey — containing several questions commissioned by the Star — reveals that a full 61 per cent of respondents are convinced that fronting one candidate, not several, would be the most potent strategy to prevent Jubilee from winning the presidential election in the first round.
In fact, the survey shows that 77 per cent of of those who identify with the opposition (either by political party or Cord/NASA) are strongly persuaded a joint candidate is the way to go.
Even a majority of Jubilee supporters at 53 per cent see fronting a single joint candidate as constituting the biggest threat to Jubilee’s continuing grip on power.
The random face-to-face poll of 2,057 adults was conducted from January 9-26 in 42 counties in both urban and rural areas The margin of error was +/-2.16 per cent.
NASA captains — ODM Leader Raila Odinga, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangu’la — all are jostling to fly the opposition flag.
Today, the four leaders will hold their first joint NASA rally, signalling they will stay united, regardless of who is the flagbearer.
“While no one would expect such a critical decision [choice of a presidential candidate] would be determined by public perceptions/opinion, at the end of the day, the opposition’s hopes depend upon sufficient public support,” Ipsos said in its presentation of results.
“As such, any events contradicting the expectations of their followers would have to be accompanied by very convincing reasons or justifications.” Just how the final decision is presented to the public, especially their supporters, will have a major impact on their electoral prospects.
Only 21 per cent of Kenyans say the opposition’s best chance of defeating Uhuru in the first round is to have all four leaders on the ballot, presumably each appealing most directly to voters in his home turf.
Some analysts suggest, however, all four leaders should run to split the vote and deny Uhuru the requisite 50 per cent plus one. This would force a runoff in which they would unite and front a single candidate.
Whether this strategy is actually being considered is unknown, since it has not been mentioned publicly.
According to the poll, rallying behind one candidate has the highest support in Raila’s Nyanza political bedrock — 74 per cent followed by Nairobi at 72 per cent.
Eastern, Western and Northeastern’s support for backing one candidate also constitute clear majorities, however, at 64 per cent, 61 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively.
Fifty-nine per cent of Kenyans at the Coast, 55 per cent in the Rift Valley and 48 per cent in Central also said rallying behind one candidate increases the opposition’s chances against Uhuru.
Ironically, only 34 per cent of respondents said they were certain the opposition would actually field a single candidate against Jubilee.
Twenty-four per cent said they were quite likely to do so, while 21 per cent said the unity bid was not very likely. Nine per cent said they were certain the opposition will not unite, while 13 per cent were unsure.
However, analysing the data by political alignment indicates the opposition’s/NASA’s own supporters are more confident such unity will prevail, with 61 per cent saying they were certain of this.
Among the remainder of their supporters, 25 per cent said NASA was “quite likely” to field a single candidate, while only 8 per cent said they were not very likely.
This left only two per cent who are certain such unity will remain only a pipe dream. Another four per cent said they were not sure.
But among Jubilee supporters, expectations of opposition unity are somewhat lower, with only 20 per cent confident of this outcome.
By contrast, 15 per cent are confident such unity will remain elusive.
However, the confidence level of the opposition fielding a single candidate varies across across regions, with a high of 60 per cent in Nyanza.
Forty-four per cent of respondents in Nairobi, 34 per cent in Western and 31 per cent in Eastern expressed certainty the opposition will field a single candidate.
Thirty per cent of respondents in both the Rift Valley and at the Coast, 23 per cent in Northeastern and 16 per cent in Central are certain the unity bid would last.
In fact, more respondents in Central, 21 per cent, are certain the opposition will never field a single candidate.
On Tuesday, the four NASA leaders unveiled the National Coordinating Committee — the selection committee. The four have pledged to remain united despite the thorny and potentially divisive issue of who will fly the flag.
During a meeting with aspirants at the Bomas of Kenya last month, Raila warned that a divided opposition will fall.
“We are here to make all of us understand that the only enemy we have and our country has is Jubilee. Divided we shall fall and the country will continue to suffer. Only our unity shall salvage what remains of our country. We are here because we understand that simple and painful reality,” Raila told NASA aspirants.