Low turnout in Kenya mini polls

August 27, 2009 12:00 am

, BOMACHOGE, Kenya, Aug 27 – The Bomachoge by-election kicked off on Thursday despite low voter turn-out and numerous complains and allegations of voter bribery and intimidation.
Most polling stations were opened at 6am local time but voters started streaming in two hours later, with the most arriving at 11 am.
Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) officials interviewed by Capital News said they were ready for the exercise as early as 6am but there were little activities at the stations for most of the time.
"We opened the polling stations on time and the exercise has been going on well, we have not received any reports of delays in voting in any of our stations so far," Returning Officer Mr Thomas Okila said.
Capital News toured polling stations at Omosasa Primary School, Keragia Tea Buying Centre, Bombaba Primary School and Getuki Secondary School where voters lauded the IIEC for opening the polling centres early.
"I was here at 6.15 am and my polling station was opened. The election officials were here ready to receive the voters. I am impressed and I hope it will go on that way until the end of the exercise," Peninah Moraa, a voter at Omosasa polling station said.
A primary school teacher Albert Omwenga who talked to Capital News shortly after casting his vote said: "I am happy because there is no confusion at the polling stations. The way the stations are organised in various streams is impressive."
Some of the contenders in the polls were however, unhappy with the IIEC which they blamed for turning away some of their voters whose names were missing from the registers.
At Mokomoni Primary School in Magenche division, Capital News witnessed as six old men were turned away after IIEC clerks and Presiding Officer failed to trace their names in their registers.
"I am a registered voter here. This is where I voted in the previous election and I have never transferred my station. I don’t understand why I am being turned away to vote elsewhere. I have gone to two polling stations and still my name cannot be traced. It appears I may end up not voting," a voter who only identified himself as Nyang’wara said.
Magenche division is the home tuff of one of the leading contenders for in polls Eng Albert Nyaundi of Ford People.
When he went to cast his ballot at Mokomoni Primary School, Eng Nyaundi accused the IIEC of failing to scrutinise their register long before the by-election and demanded urgent intervention to sort out the mess to allow his supporters to vote.
"I thought this is a new electoral body which is supposed to be efficient. I am receiving a lot of complaints from my people who have not been able to vote because their names are not in the register. This is something which should not happen in this era," he told journalists shortly after casting his vote.
He also alleged that some of his rivals’ supporters were "busy buying votes at polling stations" and urged the police to take immediate action to curb the malpractice which he claimed was rampant at polling stations within his home tuff.
"They are there at the gate, my people have seen them. They have been intimidating voters and bribing them to vote in their favour yet the police are here. These are the things we have been complaining about yet, they still go on," said Eng Nyaundi.
Capital News could not independently verify the allegations, although some reports indicated that nearly a dozen people had been arrested for voter bribery and other election malpractice at the constituency.
Similar complaints were raised by leading contenders Mr Simon Ogari of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) and Mr Joel Onyancha of the Party of National Unity (PNU) who urged the IIEC and the police to be vigilant in ensuring a free and fair election.
Mr Onyancha who voted at Senta Primary School told reporters he was confident of a "landslide win in the elections because the people here have a lot confidence in me."
"I have no doubt I will be re-elected, I have the support of the people and I know they will return me to Parliament," he said.
Just like his rival Eng Nyaundi, the former MP said he had received numerous complaints of people bribing voters at polling stations but could not give any tangible evidence.
Mr Ogari was equally confident of being elected to Parliament but he too expressed worries about what he termed "rampant corruption" by rival supporters.
"I am looking forward to winning; there have been a few problems here and there about voters whose names are missing from the registers being turned away but I hope the problem will be sorted out. We have also told the IIEC and the police to look into the bribery allegations," he said.
The voting exercise was expected to end at 6pm at all the 154 polling stations, followed by the counting process and thereafter tallying at Tendere Secondary School in Ogembo, according to IIEC officials.
"Everything will go on well. We expect to finish the exercise as scheduled and later on embark on the tallying exercise after which we will declare the winner of this by-election," Mr Okila, the Returning Officer in the Constituency said.


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