William Ruto loves to inform of his humble origins — his barefoot youth within the Rift Valley; his first pair of brogues at age 15; the time he scraped through promoting chickens and floor nuts at the aspect of a hectic freeway.
That tale is on the middle 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 mentioned 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 now not relatively that straightforward. Although Mr. Ruto slams the outgoing govt, he has been a part of it for the previous 9 years — as Kenya’s vice chairman. And his days of penury are a long way in the back of: His huge industry pursuits, received all the way through his time in politics, come with a 2,500-acre farm, a luxurious lodge and a large poultry plant.
These days Mr. Ruto, 55, is much more likely to trip through helicopter than in a “matatu,” the crowded minibuses utilized by the typical Kenyan “hustler.”
Contradictions abound on each side on this mold-breaking election, and Mr. Ruto has introduced a hard-charging, upstart power to the rustic’s moribund elite politics.
Even detractors concede that he’s charismatic, hard-working and stuffed with new concepts. His guarantees of “bottom-up” economics resonate with deficient 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And he has promised to brush away Kenya’s outdated political dynasties — embodied through his opponent, Raila Odinga, 77, and his political nemesis (and previous boss), the departing president, Uhuru Kenyatta.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’s backing Mr. Ruto, wrote at 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 novel focal point of his maximum vehement assaults at the marketing campaign path, has the texture of a vendetta. Critics level to that for instance of a ruthless taste, if Mr. Ruto got here to energy, that would transform authoritarian rule.
Mr. Ruto dismisses the ones considerations, in addition to the debate over his indictment through the International Criminal Court, in 2011, on fees of stoking election violence 4 years previous. The case collapsed in 2016 after Kenya’s govt stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
“The whole thing was a political charade,” Mr. Ruto mentioned.
His greatest problem now may well be apathy. A voter-registration power previous this yr had a disappointing turnout, particularly amongst younger Kenyans who’re on the core of Mr. Ruto’s marketing campaign.
So if he’s to emerge victorious, analysts say, he wishes his supporters to do greater than hustle. They wish to get out and vote.
Abdi Latif Dahir contributed reporting.