, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 – Voting got off to a slow start in Nairobi’s Mathare constituency on Monday, amid claims by ODM contender Stephen Kariuki that leaflets were unfairly being circulated to signal his withdrawal.
The voting was taking place on a normal working day and chilly weather.
By-elections have traditionally not registered high voter turnout.
A spot check by the Capital FM News crew across the polling stations in Mathare constituency showed a handful of voters on the queues since 6am when voting kicked off. It was however expected that numbers would increase as the day progressed.
The low turnout and leaflets did not dim the hopes of Kariuki, who cast his vote as soon as polling stations opened and was optimistic that he would clinch the seat.
Kariuki – the son of former Starehe Member of Parliament Margaret Wanjiru – said the exercise was progressing fairly despite minor technical hitches experienced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
“So far so good apart from one station where I heard they had a box that was for Women Representative and somehow the agents decided to replace it and called it R1.”
In reference to Electronic Voter Identification kits, he said: “We are happy tumeona zinafanya kazi (we have confirmed that they are working) hiyo at least tunashukuru (we are grateful) and then now we hope our voters will come out and vote.”
Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke who accompanied Kariuki to vote at the Ndururumo polling station accused their TNA rivals of resorting to what he described as primitive tactics at the last minute.
“The other side became primitive yesterday. As you may have heard, they sent leaflets saying that our candidate Kariuki has stepped out of the race. You can see we are here with him; he is still our CORD candidate and we are asking our voters this is a very important by-election for the people of Nairobi, so they need to come out and vote like it is a General Election,” said Mueke seemingly acknowledging the low voter turnout witnessed in some of the polling stations.
Kariuki’s main rival George Wanjohi of TNA cast his vote shortly before 10am and was quick to deny claims that he was responsible for the leaflets.
Wanjohi said although he had credible information that his rival was contemplating quitting the race, he had nothing to do with the leaflets circulated in the constituency on Sunday night.
“Unajua kifo ya nyani ikifika, kila mti huteleza (when the time for a monkey to die comes, every tree is slippery), so hii ni kifo cha rafiki yangu ambaye ni opponent wangu. Nadhani ni wasiwasi tu, sina hiyo wakati ya kwenda kutoa vijikaratasi, sitaki kutambua mambo mengi sana, ilifika mahali mpaka alikuwa anataka kuacha hii kiti. Na tunajua ameenda hata amenegotiate at a very high level, which I cannot disclose here,” (this is the death of the aspirations of my opponent, I think he is just nervous… I do not have time to distribute the alleged leaflets. We even know he wanted to quit the race and we know he negotiated at very high levels which I cannot disclose here), said Wanjohi in his defence.
The two are the main challengers in the by-election which has seven other candidates, including four who are vying independently.
Polling stations were due to close at 5pm on Monday, before vote counting got underway.
Provisional results were expected later on Monday night.
There are 115 polling stations in the constituency with 88,053 registered voters.