, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 12 – Matuga constituency residents began voting for a new Member of Parliament early on Monday morning.
A total of 101 polling stations opened at 6am for the daylong exercise.
Four candidates, Chirau Ali Mwakwere of PNU, ODM\’s Hassan Mwanyoha, United Democratic Movement\’s Kassim Tandaza and Labour Party of Kenya candidate Isaac Mutula are battling it out for the seat.
Mr Mwakwere was expected to cast his vote at Ngolini while Mr Mwanyoha would be at his stronghold of Tiwi. Mr Tandaza was due to cast his vote at Tsimba while Mr Mutula will be miles away at Kichakasimba to cast his vote.
The seat was declared vacant following a petition filed by Orange Democratic Movement voter Ayub Juma Mwakesi. The election of Mr Mwakwere who was the Transport Minister was annulled after the High Court found that the 2007 election was marred by chaos, vote buying and other electoral irregularities.
All preparations for the voting exercise were finalised on Sunday evening with the Interim Independent Electoral Commission ensuring materials reached all the polling stations in good time.
The Returning Officer of the by-election Helen Sidi assured Matuga residents that the election would be free and fair saying security measures had been given top priority.
However, allegations of last minute vote-buying were reported but Ms Sidi dismissed the allegations, saying no cases had officially been reported to the Commission.
A former Malindi civic leader Peter Ponda was in the meantime attacked and badly injured by armed gangsters in Diani, as the by-election got underway. He was hospitalised after the incident. Mr Ponda who was in his car was ambushed at Kombani area by gangsters who attacked him and his passengers.
The former civic leader was shot in the leg and was rushed to Palm Beach Hospital. The attackers also burnt the car before they fled the scene. Police are investigating the incident to establish if the attack was connected to the by-election.