All hail the presidential debate

6 candidates in the presidential debate today.


The presidential debacle sorry debate is here.

Raise your hand if you think the presidential debate will change any voter’s mind about who to vote for in the coming march 4th election?

No hands raised.

I thought so. This presidential debate is a mere PR exercise. Yet the media is behaving like the presidential debate is the second coming of Jesus. The media get to say that they are working together and then tell us that they are spending huge amounts of money so that we can watch the politicians together. A few tweets from yesterday concerning the issue.

misswretched ‏@misswretched
“@Kagiriwaithera: Somebody needs to tell us why this Kenya presidential debate is costing 100 million?”

B.Mwirigi ‏@BrianMbabz
100 million for a debate? Those figures….very questionable. They should have held the debate at UoN or KICC instead of Brookhouse.

SokoAnalyst ‏@SokoAnalyst
I questioned why BrookHouse, then the KES 100M bill. Somebody is laughing all the way to the bank.

And I weighed in.

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
@sokoanalyst that 100 million for the debate is very very suspicious. Over inflated bill. #CashCow for somebody

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
@sokoanalyst wish somebody would tell media 2 b really transparent 4 once & tell us how exactly 100m is being used up #PresidentialDebate

Then Juliani asked an important question

Juliani ‏@JulianiKenya
Kwa presidential debate kutakua na zile za “uvuke sakafu kwa mwendo wa aste aste!!”

Kenyan Media can over exaggerate something. 40 million watching the debate or is it 40 billion?

I saw this tweet by Kachwanya

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
@kachwanya ha ha ha. #TheStar wapelekwe #Truthmeter. 4O billion people watching presidential debate? #RealityCheck

Gituma Nturibi ‏@gitts
@potentash @kachwanya #TheStar #Truthmeter #RealityCheck extra terrestrials shall be watching too I guess

Mugereki ‏@MMugereki
@potentash Smart people read the Star. #40billionViewers

alex munyaka ‏@akams_
@potentash The entire media is hogwash, we are 40 Million Incl kids, if we – kids + those without TV/ Radio, its just 18-23 Million

And I replied

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
@akams_ True. And not everybody is interested in watching or listening to the presidential debate.

100 million for the debate. Clearly we are importing the chairs they used for the 2012 US presidential debate plus the moderators? No. Then what is that money being spent on.

Anyway the only people winning in this presidential debate are the candidates’ speech writers and speech consultants. They are the ones who will polish the candidates until they shine. Work on any flaws and make sure that they come out looking like the winning candidate. Kind of hard when your 6 candidates and you’re fighting for your 18 minutes of fame to convince the undecided voters if any to vuka sakafu and come to the winning side. And of course the media with their dubious 100 million being spent on the election.

Dubious amounts of money aside do presidential debates really matter?

John Sides in the Washington Monthly magazine of September/October 2012 Do Presidential Debates Really Matter? Says of American debates

“Remember all the famous moments in past debates that changed the outcome of those elections? Well, they didn’t.

That presidential debates can be “game changers” is a belief almost universally held by political pundits and strategists. Political scientists, however, aren’t so sure. Indeed, scholars who have looked most carefully at the data have found that, when it comes to shifting enough votes to decide the outcome of the election, presidential debates have rarely, if ever, mattered.

The small or nonexistent movement in voters’ preferences is evident when comparing the polls before and after each debate or during the debate season as a whole. Political lore often glosses over or even ignores the polling data. Even those who do pay attention to polls often fail to separate real changes from random blips due to sampling error.”

Enough seriousness for now.

Let’s go back to the presidential debate and seeing how candidates can convince us in 18 minutes or less why they should be president. For all the value I could get out of it I may as well watch it on twitter where the armchair political analysts are much funnier.

Anyway it’s a date. Any media station at 7 pm. Let the presidential debacle sorry debate begin.

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Managing editor and blogger at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]


  1. Methinks it is too early to submit the Kenyan Presidential Debate to such rigorous tests of effectiveness. Will it be a game changer? No. Will it be totally inconsequential? To suggest that would be to display massive ignorance about the role that any mediated public discourse plays in forming and informing the minds of voters.

    So, yes, I applaud the baby steps. But we are far from the U.S. debates, and the reason is not even the set up of our debates, but the mindsets of the voters. We still have a long way to go from personality-based and faction-fashioned politics to real, policy and world-view based politics.

  2. I think we have a 20% of the Undecided voters, who are keenly waiting to hear what the #Debate and the candidates have to offer.
    Secondly, we people who are convinced of there candidates but cause the euphoria going around, they want to change.
    Thirdly, I think Johnie Carson statement last week has some weight in the thinking thus i think its important to look at the debate not the cost.
    Am really not sure if the figures are correct, but think about the cost of the Media houses streaming this live, what is the cost of that, unless we know they were hosting the Debate pro bono, which i highly doubt!
    My thoughts.