Bungoma race: Low voter turnout mars by-election

By election

IEBC officials and party agents while away their time at Siyombe Primary School polling station in Bumula constituency, Bungoma County,  as they waited for voters to arrive. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Low voter turnout marred the Senate by-election in Bungoma County while violence rocked by-elections in two wards in Kakamega and Siaya counties as the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio coalitions battled for control of Western Kenya politics.

In the Bungoma by-election, the three front runners from Ford-Kenya, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Azimio decried the low voter turnout reported in the 1,373 polling stations across the nine constituencies. Bungoma County has 646,612 registered voters.

In Kakamega and Siaya counties, the by-election in Mumias North and South Gem wards were marred by violence.

In Siaya, supporters of rival candidates clashed at Kambere primary polling station, disrupting voting. Supporters of ODM candidate Polycarp Wanga and those of an independent candidate, Mr Brian Anyango, pelted each other with stones after a confrontation.

The rival candidates accused one another of blocking their agents from accessing the polling stations.

In Mumias, police officers intervened to quell confrontations between rival supporters who were armed with clubs at Central primary polling station.

The clash pitted the supporters of ODM candidate Rocky Omwendo and those of Kanu’s Yassin Muchelule.

In the Bungoma Senate seat race, candidates seeking to succeed National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula complained of low turnout, which, they said, was likely to compromise the outcome of the polls.

Mr Wetang’ula said unlike in a general election, by-elections are usually characterised by low turnout.

“We expect the turn out to be slightly over 50 per cent despite the frantic efforts made to encourage voters to turn up in large numbers and exercise their democratic right and elect a senator to succeed me,” he said.

Front runners in the race Wafula Wakoli (Ford-Kenya), Wafula Wamunyinyi (Azimio) and Mwambu Mabonga (UDA) attributed the low turnout to failure by the government to declare the voting day a national holiday to enable voters who are employed to get time to participate.

“What the IEBC and the government should have done is declare this day a national holiday like what happened in the repeat elections for governors in Kakamega and Mombasa to allow more voters to participate in the by-election,” said Mr Wakoli after voting at Masikimo polling station in Kanduyi constituency.

Mr Wamunyinyi took issue with the low turnout at Renje primary school polling station, which has 1,600 registered voters but less than 100 had cast their votes by midday. “The voter turnout is very low across most polling stations,” said Mr Wamunyinyi.

UDA national election board member Salome Beacco said despite the low voter turnout, party agents were closely monitoring the voting to ensure it was free and fair.

“It is encouraging that the electoral commission and the security teams put in place measures to ensure the voting was smooth and transparent,” said Ms Beacco at Nasiyombe primary school polling station in Bumula constituency.

The IEBC county returning officer, Ms Grace Rono, said 9,611 officials had been deployed to respective polling stations to oversee the voting.

In Kitui’s Kyome/Thaana ward, Ngutuni MCA Stephen Katana was lucky to be alive after he was accosted by angry youth over bribery allegations.

Mr Katana, elected in the August elections as an independent, was allegedly rooting for an independent candidate.

He sustained serious injuries on his head and ribs and was rushed to Migwani sub county hospital where he was admitted.

Contacted, the MCA admitted he was carrying cash amounting to Sh500, 000, which he said was from his M-Pesa outlet and not meant for voter bribery.

“Yes I’ve been assaulted by youths who are known to me. They robbed me of the money and beat me up,” Mr Katana said from the hospital bed.

He said the cash was meant for buying drip irrigation kits in Nairobi for his farm.

Police in Migwani are investigating the incident.


Reported by Benson Amadala, Barnabas Bii, Shaban Makokha, Kassim Adinasi and Kitavi Mutua

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