Presidential candidates in final campaigns to woo voters

NAIROBI, Aug 3 (Xinhua) — Campaigns for Kenya’s Aug. 8 elections have entered the homestretch, and with some four days to the polls, politicians of the East African nation are currently engaged in last-minute efforts to woo voters.

The campaign period officially ends on Saturday at 6 p.m., therefore, little time is left for the candidates to try and woo the numbers to their sides.

The last-minute cutthroat campaigns are evident among presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent, and his main challenger Raila Odinga.

The two are currently engaged in whirlwind tours across the country leading their parties, the ruling Jubilee and Opposition coalition National Super Alliance (NASA), in an effort to win the undecided voters, who opinion polls show stand at less than 5 percent.

On Thursday, President Kenyatta is on a tour of at least four regions, starting with Meru where his main rival Odinga campaigned last week, getting a rapturous reception. He will also visit Kitui in eastern region.

Meru is considered Kenyatta’s stronghold, having voted for him overwhelmingly in the last elections but Odinga has made inroads in the region.

“Vote for me so that I can continue with a development agenda. We have an action plan for more jobs and lower commodity prices in a united, democratic peaceful Kenya,” Kenyatta said on Wednesday during a campaign meeting.

On the other hand, Odinga tours western Kenya on Thursday, a region that voted for him overwhelmingly in 2013 but which pollsters have predicted that would provide a swing vote.

Odinga visits the region starting from his backyard in Kisumu, then moves to Busia, Kakamega and Siaya a day after Kenyatta visited the regions and unveiled several development projects in bid to woo voters.

On Wednesday, Odinga and his brigade was on a campaign tour of the Rift Valley, visiting Kericho and Narok, among other counties as they sold their agenda of free education and justice for all to voters.

“Aug. 8 is the day of change, let us keep marching to a better Kenya where there would be justice, free education, low cost of living and better housing,” said Odinga at a campaign in Narok.

On Friday, the candidates would continue with their campaigns in different parts of the country, which will culminate to the final rallies on Saturday in Nairobi.

While Odinga will be at the historic Uhuru Park, Kenyatta will hold his rally at Nyayo Stadium, both in Nairobi, with each seeking to show each other who has the numbers.

The aggressive campaigns, according to analysts, are mainly targeting the undecided people as most of the 19.6 million voters have already made up their minds on who they will vote for. Besides, the candidates are seeking to have support in at least 25 counties as required by the law.

Opinion polls have forecast a neck-to-neck battle for Odinga and Kenyatta, with neither of them having a clear win in the first round, an indication that there may be a re-run to decide winner.

While Kenyatta is keen on avoiding the ignominy of being Kenya’s first one-term president, Odinga is pulling all stops to win in his fourth attempt.

“This is one of the most tightly contested polls and most expensive in the history of the country. The candidates are pulling all they have to win the polls, especially in these last days, visiting regions each has been to in a bid to outdo each other. It is happening in a fashion never seen before,” Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi said Thursday.

Wandera noted that the whirlwind campaigns are energy sapping and grueling to the candidates, but they are winning some votes.

“The candidates have campaigned in some regions up to five times and sold their agendas and they are still going there two days to elections. This is to consolidate their votes and play a psychological war on those supporting their opponents by showing them that they have the numbers in those areas therefore they should join them,” said Wandera.

He noted though the official campaign period ends Saturday, Kenyans would still be bombarded with campaign messages on social media, TV and radio until hours to elections.

At least three opinion polls have placed President Kenyatta’s popularity at between 46 percent and 49 percent while Odinga’s at 45 percent and 49 percent.

Kenyans are waiting with bated breath for the elections to come and pass as life seems to have hit a standstill, with everything currently depending on the outcome of the polls.

“I am eagerly waiting for the election day. I want us to vote and move on with our lives since life has come to a stop. Business is down, there is intimidation amid claims of rigging, people are leaving the city to rural areas and others are vacating houses,” said Victor Musyoka, a carpenter in Nairobi.