NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 5 – Friday’s Embakasi South by-election has been characterized by claims of bribery and intimidation amid a low voter turnout.
Most of the polling centres Capital FM News visited registered short queues characteristic of by-elections.
In some centres, poll clerks could be seen watching over quarter full or half full ballot boxes as they counted the hours to 5pm when the polls are supposed to be closed.
The voter turnout in the constituency that has over 150,000 voters, was a source of concern for IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati who made an appeal to registered voters to turn up and carry out their democratic right – although it is not mandatory under the law.
Chebukati urged employers to allow their employees who are registered voters in the constituency to leave work early so that they can cast their votes.
Away from the low voter turnout, two people were detained by police on suspicion that they were engaging in voter bribery while police manning the Imara Daima Grounds Polling Centre were forced to disperse a group of young men because of ‘disturbing the peace’.
This came as the front-runners in the Embakasi South contest accused each other of engaging in unlawful activities in order to ensure they clinch the vote which is expected to be announced by early Saturday morning.
Embakasi South Wiper Candidate Julius Mawathe wants IEBC to investigate cases of voter intimidation by one of his competitors.
“We have received reports of a group of well-built men who have been going around parts of the constituency, threatening voters especially women and young women, telling them that they should not go and vote. But we have alerted the police, and we are confident that they will be apprehended,” he told reporters after casting his vote at Imara Daima Grounds.
On his part, ODM’s Irshad Sumra cried foul in how the ongoing by elections are being carried out.
Speaking after casting his votes at the Mukuru Education Centre the ODM candidate accused the police and IEBC of failing to act on their reports of voter bribery at some polling centres.
“I want the police to be fair and impartial. Why should they arrest my agent after he has told them that my competitor’s agents were bribing people in broad-daylight? I have raised that with the OCPD. Another anomaly we have seen is on March 26, we had reported to the Returning Officer of this area because just like last time, where the court overturned the election due to Mawathe’s people were in the tallying centres as Presiding Officers. But this time, and to my surprise he has more Presiding Officers and Deputy Presiding Officers here,” Sumra claimed.
Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang and ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said despite the anomalies and low voter turnout, the party is sure of winning the seat it lost in the 2017 General Election.
“For us as a party we are committed to a fair process. We are committed to a peaceful process but in the event that the security forces lag behind we should be able to take these processes ourselves,” Sifuna said.
“I am very confident were taking this. I am telling you because I know how Nairobi behaves, this is Friday people are still doing things which people must do because people must eat. By 4 O’clock you see life coming back to the polling centres again. We have walked around and we feel the way wananchi are speaking,” said Kajwang.
Both candidates exuded confidence in retaining seat which fell vacant after the Supreme Court upheld a High Court declaration nullifying Mawathe’s 2017 victory.
Returning Officer Abdikadir Abdullahi was not available to comment on voter bribery and intimidation.