Kenyan president’s support up ahead of vote – poll

NAIROBI (Reuters) — The majority of Kenyans are happy with President Mwai Kibaki’s leadership, a new opinion poll showed on Tuesday, giving him a further boost ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.

The survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) found 66.2 per cent of those polled approved of the way Kibaki had steered east Africa’s biggest economy, up from 59.5 percent in November 2006.

The figures from IRI, a U.S. pro-democracy advocacy group, came days after another poll showed Kibaki’s personal approval rating had surged to its highest level so far at 51 per cent.

“Since 2002, the feeling of the country is that the economy is growing, that Kenyan people have a spring in their step, and money in their pockets,” said IRI country director Lee Peterson.

Kibaki, who took over in 2002, has hinted strongly that he will seek re-election in a ballot expected to be held in December in Kenya. The nation is widely seen as a beacon of political stability in a conflict-torn region.

But while its healthy economy and the 2003 introduction of free education are seen as Kibaki’s main achievements, voters are critical of his record on crime, corruption and some failed promises such as a new constitution.

The IRI survey of 3,000 Kenyans in late March found 47.9 percent believed security — an issue in which widespread robbery, murder and rape have drawn fire from investors and the United Nations — had worsened since 2002.

And while half of those surveyed felt the government was committed to the fight against rampant corruption, 46 percent felt it was not serious in trying to rid Kenya from its image as one of the most graft-infested places in the world.

Kenyans’ poor opinion of their members of parliament — whom they see as unproductive and greedy — was reinforced in the survey, with 63 percent of respondents saying their representatives did not deserve to be re-elected.

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