News / Africa

Odinga Maintains Strategy in Tight Kenyan Election

Kenya's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses the crowd during peace prayers in Nairobi, Feb. 24, 2013.
Kenya's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses the crowd during peace prayers in Nairobi, Feb. 24, 2013.
Andrew Green
— The latest polls in the Kenyan presidential election show Prime Minister Raila Odinga locked in a dead heat with Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
 
During the past three weeks, Odinga has given virtually the same stump speech at each of his campaign rallies around the country. He promised free primary and secondary education, improved access to healthcare and increased funds for youth entrepreneurs. He told  the crowds that improving Kenya’s social programs will jump-start the country’s economy.
 
Odinga said he is planning to stick to the same points in the campaign’s last week, even as the latest presidential polls show he has lost his lead and dropped into a dead heat with Uhuru Kenyatta.
 
“Transformation of Kenya is the platform that we are using to convince the people to vote for us," Odinga said. "And I think the people are buying it. I am sure that we will be able to record victory first round.”

Opinion polls gave Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta a victory in the country’s first-ever presidential debate earlier this month.  And while Odinga is stressing his social programs, the additional seven presidential candidates share many of the same policies.
 
Every candidate is promising to deliver free primary and secondary education.  Kenyatta is also committed to free universal health care, although he says he would roll it out first to particular groups, like pregnant mothers and HIV patients.  

And between the two front-runners, Kenyatta’s manifesto offers a more detailed program for encouraging youth job creation, a key issue in a country with high youth unemployment
 
But in Kenya, where recent presidential elections have fallen largely along ethnic lines, Odinga said he is hoping to attract a broader base of support than his rivals. He promised voters he will equally distribute the local funding needed to improve social programs. And an instant poll after the debate ranked Odinga first on the issue of giving more control to local leaders.
 
“We want to bring the face of Kenya and this is the movement which is doing it," Odinga said. "To unite the people across the country and be able to actually inspire them that Kenya can do better. In the past Kenya has always been complacent ... What I am trying to do is inspire them to aim higher.”

After Monday night's second and final presidential debate, Odinga will hit the road for a last week of campaigning. He plans to travel northeast before wrapping up in his political stronghold of western Kenya.

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