With Debates Over, Kenya Counts Down to Election Day

Kenya's presidential candidates made their last attempt at snagging critical votes from a population who many say have already made up their minds.

Posted: 02/26/2013 03:04 PM EST
Kenya Counts Down to Election Day

Kenya’s presidential candidates participated in the campaign’s last major debate on Monday night and urged citizens to keep the peace in the days leading up to next week’s poll.

General elections will take place on March 4, and a run-off vote will take place in April if no candidate grabs more than 50 percent of the vote.

Although analysts say the majority of Kenyans have already decided who they will vote for, the candidates made their last ditch pitches to the public on issues such as corruption, land ownership and income disparities.

“I think that these debates are not so important this year," political analyst Dismas Makua told Al Jazeera. "By now, everyone has made up their mind who they are going to vote for … But in the future, in 2018, these debates are going to change everything."

The first debate, held on Feb. 11, was the country’s first major televised debate and TV monitoring agencies say nearly 15 million viewers tuned in.

More than 14 million are registered to vote.

The latest polls show Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in a dead heat with less than one week to the election. The close race and the candidates involved have given cause for alarm, given the haunting results of the last national election.

Both Odinga and Kenyatta played a role in the clashes that turned to full-scale ethnic violence back in 2007, leaving nearly 1,200 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. While Odinga is known for sounding the alarm back in 2007 alleging election fraud, Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, are both facing indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged roles in inciting the 2007 election violence.

In addition to being one of the most prosperous countries in East Africa, Kenya has strategic significance to many Western countries who are equally as interested in the outcome of the election as native Kenyans.

Kenya is the home of the United Nations’ base in Africa and many nations are interested in Kenyan politics, given the country’s position as a military hub for operations aimed at militants in neighboring Somalia.

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(Photo: AP Photo)