Nairobi, Kenya – Kenyans are heading to the polls on Tuesday to elect a president. Voters will also choose governors, members of parliament and senators. But Tuesday’s election is different. It is the election in which social media came of age. It is the one where fake news made an entrance and became mainstream.
Western PR firms have been hired to polish up the images of candidates and tarnish that of competitors. Attack ads have become common.
A record amount of money has been spent to convince millions of registered voters.
Taxpayers are footing most of it – a $480m bill to execute the poll, according to Kenya’s national treasury.
The successful presidential candidate will spend at least $50m to get to the state house, according to Johnson Sakaja, the former chairman of the party that put President Uhuru Kenyatta in power in 2013.
The financial strain of the most expensive election in the country’s history will be felt long after the August 8 election.
The two main candidates – President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga – are going the extra mile to come out on top. Their main target: the youth – those between 18 and 35 – who make up more than half of the 19.6 million registered voters.
To make sure the young voters cast their ballot for them, candidates have set up digital teams and are working round the clock posting photos, videos and giving live commentary from campaign rallies.