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Economics

Kenya Election Expected to Be Closest in Years as Debt Crisis Looms

Inflation, debt, and a slowing economy are galvanizing voters.

Billboards for Kenyan presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto in Nairobi.

Billboards for Kenyan presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto in Nairobi.

Photographer: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Kenyans will head to the polls on Aug. 9 to choose a new president in a contest pitting fifth-time contender Raila Odinga against William Ruto, a challenger who’s anchored his campaign on a rags-to-riches story.

It’s poised to be one of the closest elections in Kenya’s three-decade-old multiparty democracy, largely because of the involvement of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta—the son of the country’s first president who’s been in power for nine years and wields considerable influence on domestic politics. The incumbent has reneged on a promise to back his 55-year-old deputy, Ruto, and has instead thrown his weight behind Odinga, a former prime minister. Odinga, 77, ran against Kenyatta in 2017 in a bitter election marred by violence, but the two later reconciled.