Unlike other democracies presidential debates are not central our democratic process. However in a few minutes, Kenya’s 8 presidential candidates will take part in the country’s final debate in a series of two presidential debates. After an initial refusal to be present at the debate it turns out the Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta will attend after all (see story here).
The debate set to begin at 7.00pm, and like the first debate it will be held at Brookhouse School and will be televised across 8 television stations and 32 radio stations with national coverage. Google will be live streaming the debate at http://www.youtube.com/user/electionskenya.
According to an Ipsos Synovate poll 93% percent of registered voters feel the presidential debates are beneficial. But will the debate influence voting patterns?
After the last debate I am both sceptical but curious, like every other Kenyan I am more used to political candidates, presidential candidates included, making sweeping promises and emotive remarks in front large and sometimes rowdy crowds. The last debate seemed to go somewhat the same way at least as far as sweeping promises, accusations and counter accusations are concerned.
One assumes however that for the second round all candidates have been thoroughly prepared, and have polished up on the points of weakness witnessed in the first debate, and will probably stick to the message in their manifestos and that for the most part one candidate’s argument will be immediately countered by the others.
Or worst case scenario, given that this is the final debate it could devolve into loud name-calling, wild accusations and incoherent claims of the flip-floppery. Whatever the case I hope there will be some fact checking going on.
The pivotal question remains will the debate change the voters’ minds about which candidate to vote for? After all the debate is happening quite late in the electoral process, a vast majority of voters have probably already decided who their Presidential candidate is. Plus the debate is not the only thing that voters are exposed to, nor are the ‘issues’ usually the primary motivating factor for the way Kenyans vote. Will the debate change all this?
The themes for today’s debate are land and governance. It will be interesting to see if and how the moderators raise questions on the ICC case and the threat of sanctions, particularly given the issues raised about the last debate by presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta’s, team. It also will be interesting to see what governance issues will be raised with regards to the other candidates or if the letter will have any impact at all.
In any event we’ll be watching.