In an article published two days before polls open in Kenya, The Economist – one of the world’s most-circulated magazines – has described Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate Raila Odinga as the ‘safer bet’ and his rival Deputy President William Ruto as ‘a colossal risk’.
The 179-year old business, politics and economics publication further described Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua as ‘notably superior’ to Ruto’s pick for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
Articles by The Economist do not include bylines so that the publication can speak in a collective voice. The magazine emphasized Kenya’s position as the financial and diplomatic hub of East Africa, and hailed its democracy in the context of the challenges facing the country’s neighbours.
The publication did not offer a full endorsement of either candidate, acknowledging that both are flawed.
“The two leading presidential runners, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, are both flawed. Neither deserves a wholehearted endorsement. Kenyans deserve a better choice,” The Economist asserted.
It, however, weighed Odinga and Ruto’s democratic credentials before declaring the former Prime Minister as ‘the safer bet’. This is despite what The Economist termed as Odinga’s declining dynamism, lack of persuasive policies and ‘poor health’.
“He (Odinga) has been a genuine crusader for democracy and was put behind bars several times during Kenya’s long spell as a one-party state before 1992. Now 77, Mr Odinga is in poor health, short of persuasive policies and dynamism. But he is a decent democrat—with a notably superior running-mate than his rival’s. He is the duller but safer bet,” it declared.
The magazine accused Ruto of having an ‘authoritarian streak’ even as it stated that his ‘Hustler’ narrative had resonated with poor people in the country. Ruto’s dynamic campaign messaging was highlighted by The Economist for endearing residents of the Mt. Kenya region to him and ‘wiping off the stain’ of alleged crimes against members of the community in the 2007 Post Election Violence (PEV) that saw him tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“In any event, he (Ruto) has an authoritarian streak. Critics suspect he has little time for constitutional niceties. In the words of a seasoned analyst, he could be Kenya’s best president—or its worst. He is a colossal risk,” The Economist argued.