Aug 15, 2022 - World

William Ruto declared winner of Kenya presidential election

Ruto supporters await the results. Photo: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty

William Ruto has defeated Raila Odinga by a margin of 50.5% to 48.9% to win Kenya's presidential election, the chair of Kenya's electoral commission announced Monday.

Driving the news: The announcement was contentious. A scuffle broke out in ahead of the ceremony, and four members of the electoral commission declined to attend because they said the vote counting process was opaque and they could not associate themselves with the results.

Ruto is currently serving his second term as deputy to outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, but after a public split with Ruto, Kenyatta endorsed his erstwhile rival Odinga. That set the stage for a combative campaign, with Ruto prevailing in a minor upset.

  • A charismatic populist, Ruto centered his campaign around his humble origins as a “hustler” who hawked chicken on the streets to survive.
  • Ruto, 55, is more circumspect about the sources of his current wealth. Odinga’s supporters chanted at rallies he was a “thief." Ruto denies the corruption claims.
  • Ruto has promised to reform the Kenyan health care system and set aside $420 million per year to support small businesses.

The big picture: Kenya’s next president will have to navigate soaring food prices, ballooning debts and regional instability.

  • Relations with Beijing could also become tense. Kenyatta borrowed heavily from China to fund infrastructure projects.
  • Now, Ruto has railed against China's growing footprint in Kenya and promised to deport Chinese workers who are doing jobs Kenyans could do.

The other side: Odinga, 77, was seeking the presidency for the fifth time after decades in opposition — but this time as the establishment favorite.

  • Odinga’s 2018 handshake with Kenyatta rocked Kenyan politics. But Ruto said it was just a case of political dynasties closing ranks (their fathers were both leading politicians), while he represented the many Kenyans who hustle every day to get ahead.
  • Ruto has also pledged to form an inquiry into "cronyism and state capture," which could target Kenyatta.

What to watch: While Kenya is often seen as a beacon of stability in east Africa, the country saw widespread post-election violence in 2007, and again in 2017, on a smaller scale.

  • Kenya's Supreme Court annulled the 2017 results due to irregularities, but Odinga withdrew from the rerun and Kenyatta won a second term.
  • It is unclear whether Odinga will challenge the results. He was expected to attend the ceremony where the results were announced, but while Ruto sat behind the podium, Odinga did not.
  • The election itself was peaceful, but electoral commission chair Wafula Chebukati noted before announcing the results that one election staffer had disappeared on duty while others had faced intimidation.

The latest: Ruto thanked Odinga for focusing his campaign on the issues and promised to work with "all leaders in Kenya" as president. He also praised the work of the electoral commission.

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