Kenyan Challenger Says No Violence If President Vote Is Fair

  • Odinga says supporters may revolt if August election is rigged
  • Poll suggests incumbent Kenyatta has plurality of vote for now

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga pledged to keep his bid to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta free of violence, while warning that his supporters may rise up if they suspect rigging.

“We do not expect any violence,” Odinga told reporters in Nairobi, the capital, on Tuesday. “It’s not in our hands. If elections are free and fair, I don’t think there would be any. Violence will come if somebody interferes with the electoral process.”

“If we lose fairly, we will accept,” said Odinga, who leads a five-party coalition that’s contesting the Aug. 8 vote.

Kenyatta would take 47 percent of the vote if elections were held now, pollster Ipsos Kenya said in a survey published Tuesday. That compares to 42 percent support for Odinga, Ipsos research analyst Tom Wolf said. Respondents in 76 percent of households said economic conditions worsened in the past three months, citing rising costs of living.

Potential violence surrounding Kenyan elections is a source of nervousness for investors. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the vote may lead to slower growth in the $69.4 billion economy this year. The IMF cut its 2017 growth forecast for Kenya to 5.3 percent from 6.1 percent, citing heightened political instability due to the ballot.

A dispute between supporters of rival parties about the outcome of Kenya’s 2007 national vote triggered unrest that left at least 1,100 people dead and led 350,000 to flee their homes.

Equal Support

Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second, five-year term after winning the 2013 presidential election with 50.07 percent of the vote, when Odinga, a former premier, received 43.3 percent. The opposition disputes the outcome, citing rigging.

Odinga and Kenyatta enjoy near-equal support among ethnic voting blocs. If the opposition coalition boosts turnout in swing counties by 10 percent on voting day, it may be able to force a run-off, said Emma Gordon, senior analyst at Bath, England-based Verisk Maplecroft.

Odinga said he would allocate funds for low-cost housing targeting 60 percent of urban dwellers who live in slums and offer business loans and grants to young people. His government would negotiate better, “value for money” investment deals with China, he said.

“We will not exclude our traditional partners, the West, in favor of China,” Odinga said. “We will do business with all investors. We want to open up new markets for our goods, but we will trade in our best interests.”

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