Many polling stations in the city of Eldoret, the stronghold of presidential candidate and current vice president William Ruto, closed the polls sharp at 5 pm local time (10 am), as there were still no voters in line to cast their ballots.
Ballots will first be counted at polling stations immediately after voting ends, before being sent to the constituency-wide counting center that tracks results from all reporting polling stations.
If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the election will go into a second round for the first time in Kenya’s history.
Who are the main candidates?
Odinga is part of the Kenyan political dynasty; his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, was the first vice president of independent Kenya.
He is participating in the survey for the fifth and final time, he says after failing his previous four attempts.
Odinga has received the backing of rival former president Kenyatta, who passed over his deputy Ruto for the top job.
This could be the year of Odinga, says journalist and political analyst Moses Odhiambo.
“There is a feeling that whichever side the government seems to lean on wins. If you borrow from opinion polls, then Raila has an advantage,” Odhiambo told CNN.
Odinga’s main opponent, Ruto, describes himself as the “swindler in chief”, citing his humble beginnings as a chicken vendor who fought his way to one of Kenya’s highest political positions.
Ruto, a former professor who has a Ph.D. in Plant Ecology from the University of Nairobi, has adopted a populist “man of the people” approach, designed to appeal to Kenya’s largest voting bloc: the youth.
And he appears to be succeeding, veteran political analyst Herman Manyora told CNN: “Ruto has got young people excited…almost in a euphoric sense. That might help them show up and vote.”
“There is a world of difference between me and my competitor. I have a plan, he doesn’t,” Ruto says of Odinga.
Although the election would bring about a change of administration, the affiliation of Ruto and Odinga to the current government does not necessarily bring about a new political phenomenon, argues analyst Odhiambo.
“Among the main candidates, people are willing to balance what is perceived as continuity and freshness within a continuity,” Odhiambo said.
“Ruto is the vice president and part of the current government. There is a perception that Odinga could be an extension of the current president because of the support that the president has given him.”
What are the problems?
Among the key issues pressing for the electorate are a myriad of economic problems ranging from mounting debt to high food and fuel prices to mass youth unemployment.
Analyst Manyora says many Kenyans, especially the young, are disillusioned with the government and may boycott the election.
“There are things that can affect participation. One is the disillusionment in the country with the high cost of living, helplessness and hopelessness among the youth, unemployment, poverty levels and people who do not see anything that the politicians are doing for them. ”, said the analyst.
He added that Kenya’s problems should normally prompt his compatriots to vote for the right candidates regardless of tribe, but that they are not “angry enough”.
“One would expect that because of these problems, Kenyans will go to the polls in large numbers to express their anger at the high cost of living by voting for those responsible… I don’t think Kenyans are at a point where they are angry enough to translate anger into political action,” Manyora told CNN.
The role of ethnicity
“The problem in this country is that tribal considerations trump everything else… Most of the votes cast would be based on tribe; very few votes would come from critical voters,” analyst Manyora said.
Ruto is from the Kalenjin tribe and Odinga is from the Luo ethnic group.
Both men crisscrossed the country before wrapping up the campaigns over the weekend, seeking support outside their strongholds.
Both candidates also chose their running mates from Kikuyu, one of the largest voting blocs in Kenya, also known as the Mount Kenya region.
Ruto is running alongside first-term MP Rigathi Gachagua, while Odinga is on the ticket with former justice minister and former presidential hopeful Martha Karua.
Karua will become Kenya’s first female vice president if elected. Analyst Odhiambo says Odinga’s choice as a running mate has excited women in Kenya.
“There is a growing wave of support around women’s leadership that has been accelerated by Odinga’s choice of Martha as his running mate,” she said.
Only the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes have produced presidents of the country and this is the first election in which none of the main candidates are Kikuyu.
No candidate from the Luo tribe has ever won a presidential election.