Kandara voters reject women aspirants in UDA primaries

Voters queue to cast their votes at Ngaaini Primary School during UDA nominations for Kandara constituency in Murang'a County on November 26, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party has lost its push for more women in leadership positions, after Kandara constituency voters rejected female aspirants to replace Ms Alice Wahome as their MP on the party's ticket.

It was also a big loss for women empowerment lobby groups who were campaigning for Ms Wahome to be replaced by a fellow woman at the primaries.

Women parliament representation in Murang’a has gone down from three in 2017-2022 term to two after the August elections and now glaring at the risk of remaining with only one.
In the 2017 General Election, voters elected Ms Wahome in Kandara, Ms Ruth Mwaniki in Kigumo and Ms Mary wa Maua in Maragua to emerge the best county in women success at the ballot with 48 per cent.

Ms Mwaniki flopped in the August polls and with Ms Wahome's elevation to CS, Ms Wa Maua is the only remaining female MP out of the seven elected Members of Parliament.

On November 6 while attending a church function in the area, Naivasha MP Jane Kihara asked area voters "to ensure this seat goes to a woman so as to keep our two third gender rule hopes alive".

Ms Wahome who had won a third successive term as Kandara MP in the August 9 General Election, was picked by President Ruto to serve as Water CS hence occasioning the by election that will be held on January 5, 2022.

The two women who had pitched their bid in the Saturday's primaries that attracted 14 aspirants emerged at fifth and 10th positions in the race that Mr Chege Njuguna won after garnering 7,826 votes.

Mr Chege had in the August 9 General Election vied on Chama Cha Kazi (CCK) and emerged second to Ms Wahome, their difference being 20,000 votes. 
Mr Chege will now face off with others yet to be defined in other tickets save for Mr Patrick Mwangi Gichia Junior who has declared interest on Usawa Kwa Wote party.
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee party is yet to announce its candidate while the Orange Democratic Party's (ODM) Mt Kenya coordinator Mr Michael Rubia said "we will not field a candidate but collectively as Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party are consulting to settle on a joint candidate".

Ms Evelyne Waithera who had decamped from the Jubilee Party was the best placed female aspirant who garnered 1,267 votes to emerge fifth while Ms Lucy Ngugi garnered 392 votes to emerge 10th.

The results were announced by the constituency Returning Officer Mr Martin Wamukota at the Kagundu-ini  tallying centre.

Political pundits had earlier argued that the primaries would be a close call since whoever bagged the UDA ticket would have one foot in Parliament.

Low turnout

The nominations were marred by delayed delivery of voting materials, low turnout in polling stations and claims of rigging and voter bribery.

In several polling stations that Nation.Africa visited, voting materials in most polling stations had not arrived by 10 am and this occasioned the party's election board to extend voting to as late as 7pm.
Kandara has 105,148 registered voters spread in six wards—Ng’araria with 13,776 voters, Muruka (16,240), Kagundu-ini (19,129), Gaichanjiru (16,280), Ithiru (18,335) and Ruchu (21,388) voters. The validly cast votes in the Saturday's nominations were 25,683.

Generally, the atmosphere depicted of voters whose primary agenda was to go about their businesses,  needing mobilisation to participate in the exercise.

 "Party nominations require that you strategize on how to encourage your support base to turn out and vote for you. We executed this duty well where I had in the campaigns beseeched them to ensure participation in voting to help our collective cause," said Mr Chege.

On November 6, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua had declared that he will wait until the nominations were over and afterwards adopt the winner to campaign for him or her.

"We will not interfere with the free will of the people...the nominations will be a scramble for all and once the residents make their stand known, I will respect it...the party will respect it and that will be our candidate who I will personally come to ground to campaign for," he said at the Kenol AIPCA church.

Mr Mbuchu Titus emerged second in the nominations by garnering 5,335 votes while the contestant who was widely rumoured to be Ms Wahome's choice Mr Injinia Stephen Mburu emerged third after getting 4,414 votes.
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