(Corrects Odinga’s debate rating to 23 percent in second paragraph)
Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who the International Criminal Court has charged with atrocities, was rated the best performer in the nation’s first presidential debate, according to a survey by Ipsos-Synovate.
Uhuru, who heads the Jubilee Coalition, was rated the best performer by 37 percent of 1,074 people sampled who watched or listened to the debate on Feb. 11 in Nairobi, the capital. His main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga of the CORD alliance, was viewed by 23 percent as the best out of eight candidates, said Tom Wolf, a consultant with Ipsos-Synovate’s Kenyan unit. Kenya will hold national elections on March 4.
“The debate makes a difference especially for a close election like the one we expect to have,” he told reporters yesterday in Nairobi. In a separate nationwide poll, Ipsos- Synovate found Odinga had the support of 46 percent of likely voters, while Kenyatta had 40 percent.
Kenya’s elections are seen as a test of stability in East Africa’s largest economy, after a disputed 2007 vote set off two months of ethnic and political reprisals that killed more than 1,100 people, drove 350,000 from their homes and cut economic growth to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent.
The debate covered issues such as tribalism, security and the International Criminal Court cases Kenyatta and his running mate, legislator William Ruto, are facing. The ICC indicted Kenyatta last year for inciting ethnic and political violence after the 2007 election, charges he denies.
Former Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura is facing the same charges. Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang are suspects in a second ICC case related to the post-election clashes. The trials are set to start on April 10 and April 11. All four defendants say they are innocent of the charges.
In a separate poll, conducted by Nairobi-based Consumer Insight Ltd., Kenyatta had a 27 percent approval compared to 22 percent for Odinga. The poll surveyed 328 people who watched the debate on television, Consumer Insight Managing Director Ndirangu wa Maina said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
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