S Mugirango: Top three contenders in close race

Police officers guard empty ballot boxes before being dispatched them to polling stations for the South Mugirango by-election on Thursday. Photo/TOM OTIENO

Counting of votes in the South Mugirango by-election was under way on Thursday evening with the leading three candidates in a neck and neck race.

For the first time in the country’s elections history, the results from each polling station were being transmitted electronically to the tallying centre at Lilian Towers in Nairobi, with contenders Omingo Magara (PDP), Ibrahim Ochoi (ODM) and Manson Nyamweya (Ford-P) in the lead.

The election was marked with a low voter turn-out, bribery allegations, and a heavy police presence.

Police presence

At least one person had been arrested by midday over claims of vote buying as the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) said it had received other reports of bribery.

Returning officer Bonventure Obongoya said midway through voting that only 10,905 of the registered 41,281 voters had cast their ballots.

However, the heavy rains that have been pounding the area took a break on Thursday, easing the nightmarish transport system. The three top contenders all exuded confidence even as they raised the red flag over alleged irregularities.

The heavy police presence was testimony to IIEC official Yusuf Nzibo’s statement earlier that the electoral team was not taking any chances.

This was after his car was attacked and the windscreen smashed by unknown assailants on Wednesday. But he said the attack most likely targeted a candidate.

All the 110 polling stations had two officers each while another 50 were deployed at the main tallying centre. Several patrol vehicles were also spotted around the constituency as the tension that characterised the campaigns resurfaced.

Both PNU and ODM had a high profile presence on the ground in a by-election billed as a key indicator of the 2012 Kibaki succession race.

A group fronted by Higher Education minister William Ruto under the banner of the KKK alliance has thrown its weight behind Mr Magara while Prime Minister Raila Odinga has marshalled his troops around ODM’s Ochoi.

The outcome of the poll is also likely to settle the supremacy battles in Gusii that pit Mr Chris Obure, who is supporting the ODM candidate, and Prof Sam Ongeri, who is backing Mr Magara.

The results, which the IIEC has said would be transmitted electronically, were expected to start trickling in by 7pm.

All polling stations, except three, delayed opening either because no voter had turned up or party agents were not there by 6am. IIEC regulations require that a voter and party agents be present to confirm that the ballot boxes are empty.


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