Two heavyweights of Kenyan post-independence politics will square off this Thursday in a presidential vote that has overshadowed Christmas. The incumbent leader, Mwai Kibaki, is hoping to win a second five-year term on his sound economic record of an average five percent annual growth, as well as for introducing free primary school education.
But his failure to stamp out corruption or tackle the widening gap between rich and poor has been fiercely attacked by his one-time ally Raila Odinga, the main opposition challenger.
All but one voter intention poll since September has tipped him to narrowl win the contest.
Odinga has the ardent backing of his western Luo community, but has also garnered support from other ethnic groups who think the Kikuyus, the largest of Kenya’s ethnic tribes, have had it too good under Kibaki.
The closeness of the vote has raised fears that fraud and intimidation may be used to try to swing results in a nation that has enjoyed relative stability and become east Africa’s economic power house since the end of British rule in 1961.
The European Union’s chief election monitor in Kenya says political in-fighting is behind the killing of more than 300 people in the run-up to Thursday’s elections.