Africa

Kenyan candidates and voters take to Twitter ahead of elections

As we found when we reviewed global politics on Twitter in late 2012, Twitter has become a crucial election tool in countries across the globe.

Kenya is no exception to this rule.

This election campaign has seen Kenyan politicians and voters take to social media as never before to discuss the candidates and debate the main issues.

This year’s race has seen a number of firsts.

It is the first election since the new constitution was ratified in 2010 and, for the first time, Kenyans will also be voting for governors and senators.

It is the first time that Kenya has held televised presidential debates (streamed on YouTube for viewers around the world).

And it is the first time that a Kenyan election has played out on Twitter. This year’s election has solidified Kenya’s position as one of Africa’s top tweeting nations.

In fact, the first presidential debate was so heavily discussed on Twitter that it briefly became one of the world’s top trending topics.

Portland has teamed up with Tweetminster – which helped develop How Africa Tweets – once again, using their electionistaPRO tool to track how the candidates and political commentators have been using Twitter during this election race.

The Twitter debates, both mirroring and building on the physical debates, have seen comments from across the spectrum – voters, journalists, corporate leaders, political pundits and the candidates themselves.

It is this last group that we’re most interested to see embracing Twitter as a tool to engage with citizens. When we released How Africa Tweets last year, we found that very few politicians in Africa (Kenya included) were using Twitter effectively.

While seven of the eight leading candidates have been using Twitter in some way during the campaign, a few have grasped the power of the platform to reach their audiences.

Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua have led the pack in their activity. Karua appears again as the most mentioned candidate by commentators on Twitter, followed by Raila Odinga.

This week’s second presidential debate saw people across the country take to Twitter en masse to analyse the discussion. The volume of tweets by Kenyan politicos rose steadily over the days before the debate and reached a peak shortly after the debate began.

As happened with the first debate, the Kenyan elections quickly started trending globally on Twitter, with ‘Kenya’ and moderator ‘Joe Ageyo’ both hitting the top ten. Within Kenya, the conversation focused around a number of trending terms, including #kedebate13#choice2013 and #uhuru.

If you’re following the election race and want to bolster your Twitter monitoring, here are the candidates’ profiles and some of the most popular hashtags at the time of writing.

Candidates on Twitter

Hashtags

Written By

Matt Gould