NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 12 – Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)’s Moses Kajwang is the new Homa Bay County Senator after garnering 127,370 votes in a keenly contested by-election peppered by claims of violence, voter apathy and bribery that was a litmus test for party leader and former Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga, ahead of the next General Election.
In a show of the Orange party’s might in the lakeside region, Kajwang took an early lead in the polls opening a near 10,000 vote gap to his nearest challenger; Maendeleo Democratic Party’s Phillip Okundi before he finally sailed home to retain the seat held by his late brother and ODM kingpin, Gerald Otieno who died in late November.
Okundi got 27,671 votes, former NSSF boss Fred Rabongo and potential third force Hillary Alila who had run as an independent candidate could only manage 2,829 and 525 votes respectively.
The political future and reputation of ODM at large and Odinga was on the line when dissent broke out within the party’s ranks initially after some supporters proposed the opposition leader for the seat. He however declined to contest and Kajwang got the ticket through direct nomination following the violent collapse of planned primaries that saw erstwhile loyalists including Okundi, Rabongo and former PM aide Silas Jakakimba defect to little-known parties or contest as independent.
The former Premier was then forced to use his first born son Fidel Odinga’s burial last month to declare his support for Moses before he camped at the area in the last three days drumming support for the ODM candidate as he marshalled his lieutenants to conduct a door-to-door campaign to woo the voters.
His message to the electorate was simple, a vote for Moses was a vote for his stab at the Presidency at the next General Election and it was a message that finally sunk home in a region where Odinga enjoys near fanatical support as his choice carried the day underlining his supremacy in Nyanza and his status as a major political force across the country survived the onslaught.
Voting started at 6am across 816 polling centres but was characterized by a low turnout which some candidates attributed to voter apathy.
ODM’s Kajwang and Maendeleo Party of Kenya Okundi -the two leading candidates in the poll- cited massive irregularities such as voter bribery and use of violence during the process but each added that he is optimistic of a victory.
Pockets of violence were reported in Ndhiwa and Karachuonyo Constituencies.
In Ndhiwa, a vehicle that was dropping agents of Okundi was stoned and its windscreen shattered while in Karachuonyo, a vehicle dropping ODM agents was also stoned. Police are investigating the two incidences.
Speaking after he cast his vote at Kuoyo Kochia Primary School Polling Centre, Okundi decried voter bribery in Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria which he says went unabated.
Kajwang did not vote because he is a registered voter in Nairobi.