The National Super Alliance (Nasa) seems to have learnt a lesson from the 2013 elections when low voter turnout partly cost its predecessor, the Coalition for Reform and Democracy, victory.
As they embarked on rigorous campaigns Sunday, the alliance’s new lieutenants seemed to have known that voter turnout, more than crowds in rallies, determines results.
“We love crowds of people but victory for Nasa will depend on whether you vote,” said Nasa’s campaign team leader Musalia Mudavadi who is also a co-principal in the alliance.
“Victory is determined by the number of those who actually vote,” he told a gathering during a rally at the Jacaranda Grounds in Nairobi.
In 2013, Mr Mudavadi contested on the Amani Coalition, coming a distance third in a race fought fiercely between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Now things have changed, Mr Odinga of ODM, Mr Mudavadi, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper, Mr Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya and Mr Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani, have come together to form Nasa.
But this grouping, same as President Kenyatta’s revamped Jubilee Party, will rely on the same voting blocs as in 2013.
Here, Nasa leaders made a public declaration “to wake up early on August 8, 2017 to vote to ensure Raila Amolo Odinga becomes the next president of Kenya.”
But voting and numbers were on their minds.
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto was exuding confidence, telling the crowd that Jubilee’s mantra of “tyranny of numbers” has been dissolved.
“For four years, they claimed they had tyranny of numbers. Now wait and see how Kenyans will teach them what tyranny of numbers is,” said the governor who was elected on a URP ticket, part of the Jubilee alliance, in 2013 but has since fallen out with the ruling coalition.
So how important is voter turn-out?
Official figures from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will not be out until verification of the voters’ register is complete.
But Nasa has claimed its support base is worth 10 million voters this time.
In 2013, Mr Odinga’s loss was blamed partly on his strongholds not turning out in their numbers to vote.
In the Coast region, which was his stronghold, there was the least turnout from his support bases with only seven in every ten voters of the then 1,171,240 registered voters casting their ballots.
The rest of the regions registered more than 80 per cent turnout, according to an official tally later published by the IEBC in 2014.
Eventually, Kenyatta managed 50.07 per cent of the total votes cast against Mr Odinga’s 43.7 per cent.
He clinched the presidency by a razor-sharp margin of 8,419 votes that helped him tip over and satisfy the constitutional requirement of 50 per cent plus one votes to avoid a runoff.
Cord challenged this result in court, citing various irregularities and arguing the vote had been rigged against them.
They failed to prove this before the Supreme Court judges and the court threw out their petition.
IEBC’s data though showed that all strongholds of Mr Kenyatta recorded a high voter turnout.
Central had the highest at 92 per cent earning him 1,895,075 votes against Mr Mr Odinga’s 84,010 votes.
On the other hand, Mr Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold recorded the second highest turnout at 89 per cent. The former PM garnered 1,508,776 votes against 181,961 votes that Mr Kenyatta got.
In the Rift Valley, another stronghold of Mr Kenyatta, recorded a turnout of 88 per cent, and it seemed to cancel out any victories Mr Odinga had scored in Nyanza because the President managed 2,188,422 votes against Mr Odinga’s 707,541.
So, apart from the actual registered numbers, it appears actual votes cast may be a new battle front in the campaigns that began on Sunday.