By John Ikani
Kenyans are heading to voting booths today (Tuesday) to elect a new president in a fiercely contested election that pitches veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga against Deputy President William Ruto.
Citizens of the East African powerhouse will also elect senators, women representatives, members of the national assembly, governors, and members of the county assembly today.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is not running due to term limits but is backing Odinga, who has vied for the presidency for a quarter-century.
The final four opinion polls published last week put Odinga ahead with a margin of 6-8 points but Ruto, who touts his humble childhood, has dismissed them as fake and designed to sway the electorate.
The African Union (AU) joint election observer team with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has already been deployed countrywide.
Among international election observers gathered mostly in Nairobi is Ugandan opposition figures, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, and Kizza Besigye.
For Uganda, and surrounding countries in east and central Africa, the polls are important because Kenya is the region’s largest economy.
Its stability is critical for the East African Community and by extension COMESA.
The election is considered close, and Kenya could see a presidential runoff for the first time.
But both Odinga and Ruto have chosen running mates from the country’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu.
Official results must be announced within a week of the election, but impatience is expected if they don’t come before this weekend.