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Hustler narrative sank Raila, Observer report

Hustler narrative and the 2018 political handshake sank Raila in the 2022 general elections according to the Elog report.

Politics in the aftermath of the 2018 political handshake between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has been cited as a defining factor of the 2022 General Election.

Elections Observation Group (Elog) claims in its final report on the election that the handshake led to broad political narratives and realignments that had a substantial impact on the election.

According to the article “From the Ballot to the Portal,” the hustler narrative changed politics by moving it away from the conventional ethnic base on which leaders have traditionally rallied support.

“It (hustler narrative) was most popular amongst the unemployed and those in the informal and blue-collar sectors. The proponents of the populist narrative crafted it into a strategic campaign platform in the form of a bottom-up economic model,” notes the report.

According to the report, the political brand spread throughout the nation and had the ability to bring about terrible political and socioeconomic upheavals. 

It also took the form of a political movement and a marketing campaign emblem.

According to the report, the privileged were portrayed as the cause of the “hustlers” struggles. 

They were depicted as aloof towards these burdens.

“It became a key pillar of the 2022 campaign rhetoric and messaging. It was also embraced as a form of political agitation and rebellion by the underprivileged populace against the privileged elites and political dynasties in society,” it says.

Elog points out that severe poverty, ingrained inequality, and the effects of Covid-19 are the main reasons why the Hustler mantra resonated with so many Kenyans.

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Other elements such as unresolved historical injustices, a general feeling of unease throughout the nation, the perception that one political party is being supported by the “deep state,” the abundance of hate speech, fake news, and misinformation all contributed to its potency.

The study says that the presidential candidate for the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition had little chance against it.

Raila was called a project and a “deep state” surrogate while emphasizing unity, and cohesiveness, and discrediting the hustler narrative in his campaign messaging.

The antecedents of the two main rivals, the report also says, made the election stiff and tense. 

While Raila, at 77, was making his fourth “last bullet” bid, Kenya Kwanza candidate William Ruto, at 55, was making his first stab at it.

“The two are very well known for their brand of abrasive politics and as astute political mobilizers with great mastery of Kenyan political nuances and dynamics,” the report notes.

As Ruto placed a bet on his hustlers, Raila placed his on his traditional base as well as the backing of Kenyatta, and presumably that of state machinery.

For Ruto, a win at all costs was necessary on account of the innate desire to protect his political career and his vast economic interests and wealth from potential political saboteurs.

For Raila, the contest was a do-or-die on account of his advanced age and previous election losses, but also due to the fear of existential peril to his and Kenyatta’s political and economic interests.

“The environment was not only dramatic, but it also evinced all the characteristics of a perfect election storm,” it says, adding that the totality of these factors conspired to generate a combustible environment for the election.

Elog reaffirms its initial conclusion that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) proclaimed results accurately represented their projections.

Beyond the election frame, they came to the conclusion that the IEBC and the candidates for office had not engaged in any substantial, persistent, or deliberate mischief.

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