The electoral commission and the National Assembly’s budget committee convene in Mombasa today for crisis talks amid worrying voter registration apathy that has sent panic among political parties ahead of next year’s General Election.
The talks will also focus on the 2022 elections budget constraints.
Both the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Budget and Appropriations Committee chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega yesterday ruled out the possibility of an extension of the Enhanced Continuous Voter Registration (ECVR) due to budget constraints.
IEBC acting chief executive Hussein Marjan confirmed today’s meeting alongside Mr Kega.
“The meeting is on the General Election budget that includes the ongoing ECVR,” said Mr Marjan.
“As chairman of the budget committee I want to remind Kenyans that we don’t have funds for more days. In fact this one was even a strain,” said Mr Kega.
He added: “We are meeting IEBC tomorrow (today) in Mombasa to give us an itemised budget because this time round we have some astronomical figures of about Sh41 billion for the General Election. So if we have not been able to fully fund all the other critical functions of IEBC for them to deliver a credible election, you can imagine what will happen if they request more funds for voter registration.”
According to IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, the commission requires a minimum of Sh40.9 billion to conduct the 2022 elections, yet Treasury allocated it Sh26.34 billion, leaving a deficit of Sh14.57 billion.
But the elephant in the room at the moment is the worrying snail paced registration that has only netted 800,462 new voters out of the targeted 4.5 million with just a week to the November 4 deadline.
On Monday, ODM leader Raila Odinga, seen as one of the 2022 presidential front runners, was compelled to pitch camp in his Nyanza backyard in an attempt to rally the youth to enrol as voters.
“I’ve toured the whole country and everywhere I go, they are pushing me to go for the top seat. But I am worried that while in other regions the youth are registering as voters in large numbers, things are slow in Nyanza. We cannot go to this battle if my soldiers are not armed with the national ID as a gun and the voter’s card as a bullet,” said Mr Odinga in one of his stopovers in tKisumu.
Yesterday, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi said IEBC should consider another round of mass registration, probably next year, to net more youths.
Mr Marjan was categorical that the commission will only extend the voter registration in the 1,450 wards if it is allocated more money.
“Those who do not take advantage of these remaining days will have to blame themselves because they will have to travel for long distances to get registration services,” he said.
He added: “After conclusion of the ECVR exercise the commission will still afford eligible citizens time to register through continuous voter registration exercise at the 290 constituencies until closure of registration to allow for voter verification.”
Mr Mudavadi told IEBC to conduct a more aggressive campaign because “in reality we have seen very little advertisements about voter registration this time.”
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna called for more civic education on the need to vote, especially among young Kenyans.
“The IEBC must also do more to build the confidence of voters in the electoral process. The overwhelming response from many young people I have spoken to is they don't see the need to register since they feel their votes won't count,” Mr Sifuna said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kuttuny said there is need for the government to allocate IEBC adequate funds for it to meet its expectations.
“As a party, we are going to ensure we push for more funding to IEBC so that they can meet their expectations,” Mr Kuttuny said.
Mr Kuttuny, however, blamed IEBC for the slow registration, citing use of poor technology.
“There is no way if I want to vote in Nairobi and I am in Cherangany, I have to travel all the way to Nairobi to come and register where I want to vote. Why don’t they come up with a technology where if I’m in Mombasa and want to vote in Trans Nzoia I can register there and be a voter in a particular polling station?” he asked.
Wiper Vice-Chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Chairman Johnson Muthama and Ford Kenya Organising Secretary Chris Mandu expressed fears that the voter listing apathy could extend to next year’s election.
“The voter apathy is not entirely unexpected. There is a growing narrative that politicians are the beneficiaries of registration and must therefore facilitate people to register. Kenyans don’t see any direct relation between voting and their plight,” Mr Kilonzo said.
He pointed out that Kenyans need to be told that this is their opportunity to pick good leaders and remedy the problem of bad governance.
Mr Salat said that whereas Covid-19 might have had adverse effects on the registration, IEBC ought to have conducted proper civic education.