Low voter turnout, voter bribery claims mar Kiambaa by-election

Kiambaa Constituency by-election

Voters queue to cast their ballots during the Kiambaa Constituency by-election which was marred by low voter turnout and claims of voter intimidation and bribery marred.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Low voter turnout, claims of voter intimidation and bribery marred the Kiambaa Constituency by-election, which was a fierce contest between President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

And as vote counting got underway after polls closed at 5pm, UDA protested the alleged presence of unidentified armed men in polling stations, while demanding that security agents eject the goons. The party demanded for a crisis meeting with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The claims of interference had earlier caused scuffles as voting begun in the morning, with National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya clashing with some youths who accused him of trying to influence voters at Kimuga polling station.

Mr Kimunya stood his ground, insisting that he was at the polling station legally as an accredited Jubilee Party agent. Police officers dispersed the rowdy group.

IEBC officials estimated the voter turnout at below half of the 96,000 registered voters in the constituency.

45 per cent turnout

Kiambaa Constituency Returning Officer Peter Muigai said the turnout was about 45 per cent, both for the parliamentary seat election, and for the Muguga Ward seat in the same constituency.

Muguga Ward has 18,374 registered voters.

A spot check by the Nation across various polling stations indicated majority of young voters had shunned the exercise, with mostly elderly people streaming in.

Gacii open market polling station was virtually empty for the better part of the day.

In the afternoon, Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh could be seen making frantic calls, complaining that the voter turnout was low.

IEBC clerks turned away some young people who were either too drunk to vote or had come to vote using the Huduma Namba card instead of the national identity card.

IEBC also dismissed a claim by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria that its clerks at Kingothua Primary School had sneaked in poll kits to a flower plantation for clandestine voting. Mr Kuria posted photos of the vehicle that allegedly transported the materials.

Commission staff

“The car in question is an IEBC vehicle being used by commission staff who are providing technical support to the polling process. The post by Moses Kuria is therefore a false allegation,” IEBC responded.

UDA alleged that there were some unidentified armed people, believed to have been deployed by Jubilee, totalling 15 in every polling station who were “on a mission to disrupt the voting and ultimately counting of the votes”.

The party claimed that some of its agents had been blocked from voting.

“We expect the security personnel to clear the goons and bar them from accessing any polling station or the tallying centre or its precincts as defined by law... We hereby demand for an urgent crisis meeting to address this serious issue,” UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina wrote in a letter addressed to IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Earlier, polling stations opened at 6am, although in some, voters had queued as early as at 4.30am.

The Jubilee party candidate, Mr Kariri Njama, voted at Gacii Primary School a few minutes to noon.

UDA candidate, Mr Njuguna Wanjiku, voted at Thimbigua Primary School, accompanied by Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.

Both candidates said they were satisfied with the voting and expressed confidence that they would triumph in the mini-poll whose outcome has been billed as a pointer to Mt Kenya’s political direction in the power struggle between President Kenyatta and his deputy ahead of next year’s election.

Mr Njuguna lamented what he said was rampant voter bribery, which he claimed was being perpetrated by the local administration.

In Muguga Ward, the Jubilee candidate, Mr Githinji Mungera, voted at Kahuho Uhuru High School.

UDA’s Kamau Thumbi cast his vote at Muguga Primary School.