Kenyans disappointed as president skips televised debate

Kenyans on Monday expressed disappointment with President Uhuru Kenyatta for skipping a scheduled televised debate that would have pitted him against his closest challenger, Raila Odinga.

Last week, the deputy president also skipped a debate where he was scheduled to face other presidential running mates. Only one person appeared in last week’s debate that was also live and televised.

Earlier, the president’s team had indicated that he would not attend the event after complaining that the organizers had not involved him to discuss and agree on the format and rules of engagement.

The organizers of the event, Debates Media Limited, however, denied the allegations made by the president’s team, saying that the committee has been in touch with all candidates. The steering committee clarified that it had published the criteria for participation in the debates in June.

On Monday morning, State House digital director Dennis Itumbi criticized the organizers of the debate for advertising that the president would attend the debate without having confirmed with State House.

At the same time, some among the president’s supporters supported his decision, saying it will not bring much of a difference since many people had already made up their minds on who they will elect come August 8th.

Previously, the President has held live chat sessions on his Facebook page to discuss his Action Plan. On Sunday morning, he spent a little under an hour taking questions from Kenyans on his plan for jobs creation and lowering of the cost of food prices if he is re-elected.

Odinga, the presidential candidate for the National Super Alliance (NASA), took advantage of the president’s absence at the debate to engage the audience and responded to questions on topics including unemployment, security and housing in the debate that lasted 90 minutes.

Responding to questions from moderators, Odinga said that if elected, his priority would be to bring down the cost of living, address food shortages, create employment and also provide affordable housing.

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Uhuru Kenyatta at a meeting with leaders from Samburu County, July 24th, 2017 (PSCU)

According to the latest opinion polls, none of the two top contenders is likely to get more than 50 percent of the votes, meaning that there would need to be a run-off between the two candidates who emerge top in the election. However, there is also an undecided number of Kenyans at around 5 or 6 percent.

There are six other independent presidential candidates, none of whom has polled more than one per cent in the opinion polls that have been released so far. The rules on opinion polling say that the latest opinion poll should be released at least seven days before the elections are held.

The general elections in Kenya will now be held on August 8th after the courts pronounced themselves on various cases that had been lodged against the electoral body, which now paves the way for holding the elections as the constitution dictates.