William Ruto loves to inform of his humble origins — his barefoot childhood in the Rift Valley; his first pair of footwear at age 15; the time he scraped by promoting chickens and floor nuts on the aspect of a busy freeway.
That story is at the coronary heart of Mr. Ruto’s electoral pitch to what he calls the “hustler nation” — hard-working and impressive younger individuals who, like him as soon as, deserve a greater deal. “If you listen to Joe Biden, he’s speaking the same language,” Mr. Ruto stated in an interview. “How do we bring the majority to the table, where their talents, energies and ideas are also part of the making of the nation?”
But it’s not fairly that straightforward. Although Mr. Ruto slams the outgoing authorities, he has been half of it for the previous 9 years — as Kenya’s vp. And his days of penury are far behind: His huge enterprise pursuits, acquired throughout his time in politics, embrace a 2,500-acre farm, a luxurious lodge and a large poultry plant.
These days Mr. Ruto, 55, is extra more likely to journey by helicopter than in a “matatu,” the crowded minibuses utilized by the common Kenyan “hustler.”
Contradictions abound on all sides on this mold-breaking election, and Mr. Ruto has introduced a hard-charging, upstart vitality to the nation’s moribund elite politics.
Even detractors concede that he is charismatic, hard-working and full of new concepts. His guarantees of “bottom-up” economics resonate with poor Kenyans who’re nonetheless reeling from the pandemic and now grappling with hovering meals and gas costs.
And he has promised to brush away Kenya’s outdated political dynasties — embodied by his opponent, Raila Odinga, 77, and his political nemesis (and former boss), the departing president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
“There is no doubt that William Ruto’s presidential campaign has wrong-footed Kenya’s political establishment,” David Ndii, an influential economist who is backing Mr. Ruto, wrote on the eve of Tuesday’s vote. “They did not see a mere hustler leading a reimagining of our politics.”
Still, Mr. Ruto’s enmity with Mr. Kenyatta, a singular focus of his most vehement assaults on the marketing campaign path, has the really feel of a vendetta. Critics level to that for example of a ruthless fashion, if Mr. Ruto got here to energy, that would flip into authoritarian rule.
Mr. Ruto dismisses these considerations, in addition to the controversy over his indictment by the International Criminal Court, in 2011, on expenses of stoking election violence 4 years earlier. The case collapsed in 2016 after Kenya’s authorities stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
“The whole thing was a political charade,” Mr. Ruto stated.
His greatest problem now may be apathy. A voter-registration drive earlier this 12 months had a disappointing turnout, particularly amongst younger Kenyans who’re at the core of Mr. Ruto’s marketing campaign.
So if he is to emerge victorious, analysts say, he wants his supporters to do greater than hustle. They have to get out and vote.
Abdi Latif Dahir contributed reporting.