Election fever spreads in Kenya as fresh presidential polls loom

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-06 22:32:06|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- As Kenya readies for a fresh round of presidential polls, election fever is spreading faster across the East African nation.

The fever is being heightened by intensified campaigns and political rhetoric by the main protagonists, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga.

The two are reorganizing their troops in readiness for a fierce election contest on Oct. 17 that spells doom for the political careers of both in case one loses.

On Tuesday, Kenyatta received a host of leaders from Odinga's strongholds, some of whom had defected after losing in Aug. 8 polls.

The leaders promised to campaign for Kenyatta in their regions even as he hit the trail on Tuesday, selling his candidature to residents on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Kenyatta castigated Odinga for rejecting Oct. 17 as the new date for the polls as set by the nation's electoral commission.

"Why is he against the new date? That's a person who is not ready to accept the will of the people. Being respectful does not mean I am a coward," he told a cheering crowd.

On the other hand, Odinga had on Monday received a former supporter of Kenyatta from his central Kenya bastion, who lost in the governorship seat.

Odinga on Tuesday campaigned in Kisii and Nyamira, western Kenya, capitalizing on Kenyatta's criticism and threats against Chief Justice David Maraga.

"The Chief Justice, who comes from this region, is a wise man. He helped us to reclaim our victory. We shall stop at nothing and I plead with you to vote for me to the last man, angrily and in protest to the stolen votes," said Odinga, as he called on Kenyatta to stop attacking the top court.

The heightened political rhetoric, with Odinga and Kenyatta failing to agree on nearly every important issue, is psyching up their supporters.

The official campaign period as set by the electoral commission started Wednesday, but the two leaders and their supporters have been selling their agenda to the voters soon after the election was annulled last Friday.

In the capital Nairobi, politics is taking center stage as residents in residential areas and in the central business district congregate in groups to talk about the upcoming polls.

Along Moi Avenue Street at Ambassador terminus on Wednesday morning, three groups of about 15 people each hurdled together separately listening to what appeared to be their leaders.

From afar, one would have thought the groups were discussing how to raise funds for a particular course but politics was at the center of their debates.

"This time round Raila must ensure he has agents in all polling stations to guard his votes. It is clear that his opponents seized the opportunity of missing agents to doctor results in Aug. 8 polls. Raila must do it, he may never get any other chance," said a man full of vigor.

Similar discussions happened at the two other groups showing the gravity of the coming polls on citizens' lives.

As the elections approach, some Kenyatta and Odinga supporters would suspend their daily activities to concentrate fully on politics.

Small traders are yet to start feeling the pinch but as Oct. 17 nears, business would plummet and many would be reluctant to bring in new stock as it happened before Aug. 8 polls.

The most affected, however, by the rising election fever in the East African nation is the stock market and the Kenya shilling.

The currency lost ground marginally on Wednesday against the U.S. dollar to trade at 103.3, according to the central bank, as political bickering on repeat presidential polls intensified, with many businesses aligning their operations to the coming polls.

On the other hand, NSE 20 Share Index, the stock market key indicator, had been hit harder by the election fever, losing some 200 points in two trading days as investors' wealth declined markedly in the same period.

"Kenya is a highly political country and Kenyans love politics, the reason why election fever spreads faster. The country is perpetually on campaign mode and activities only heighten when the polls draw closer.

"The Oct. 17 polls are do or die for the candidates, therefore people expect intense political campaigns which will affect many sectors and lives," said Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi, noting business has declined as corporates, his major clients, hold back on activities until after polls.