Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition yesterday cried foul after the electoral commission suspended polls in four elective areas, including the governor races in Mombasa and Kakamega counties.
Elections were also suspended for the MP position in Kacheliba and Pokot South constituencies in West Pokot County. This adds to the five wards where the electoral agency said elections had been postponed due to the death of candidates.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said voters in the affected areas will only vote for the other five elective positions.
Speaking to the media yesterday at Bomas, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati said elections in the four areas will be conducted at a later date to be announced during the week.
“We wish to inform the country that despite the high level of preparedness, some ballot papers for four elective positions were noted to have errors. As a result elections for the respective positions have been suspended to a later date to be announced through a Gazette notice,” said Mr Chebukati.
Yesterday, the two coalitions accused the IEBC of a rigging plot and planning to subdue voter turnout in the areas.
“Our resolve to elect Cleophas Malala and Hassan Omar as the next governors of Kakamega and Mombasa counties, respectively, remains unbowed. All sinister motives shall fail.
“In spite of the suspension of the Kakamega gubernatorial election, I urge all voters to turnout in large numbers and vote for all Kenya Kwanza candidates, starting with DP William Ruto. The same applies for Mombasa County. The people’s choice cannot be defeated,” Amani National Congress boss Musalia Mudavadi said.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya accused IEBC of failing in its role.
“IEBC’s decision to suspend gubernatorial elections in Kakamega and Mombasa counties is a scheme to rig the elections. I question why they had to stop gubernatorial elections in Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s strongholds and backyards of ODM deputy party leaders,” Mr Oparanya charged.
He went on: “I fear that the move will affect voter turnout in the two counties that Raila was banking on for numbers to propel him to victory. The announcement has caused tension in the county and can cause chaos if not handled well.”
Mr Oparanya, however, called on Kakamega residents to turn up in large numbers to vote.
“Despite the setback I call on our supporters to turn out in large numbers tomorrow and vote for Azimio candidates and also be calm and maintain peace as the matter is being handled. They have only delayed our victory, but it is still ours for the taking,” Mr Oparanya said.
For the candidates, however, the decision by IEBC to postpone the polls could be a dire one.
While candidates would have ridden on the uncertainty of the presidential elections, the fact that the elections will happen long after the declaration of the presidential contest winner has been made means they lose that advantage.
Voters will be less likely to vote for a governor or MP candidate whose party’s presidential flagbearer lost.
Mr Malala, the UDA candidate for Kakamega governor, said the decision by IEBC to suspend the elections was unacceptable.
“Two weeks ago, my team and I held a meeting with the IEBC officials who assured us that all was well and we would proceed with the polls without hitches,” said Mr Malala.
Accompanied by his running mate Dr Beatrice Muganda, Mr Malala said the IEBC officials had carried a verification ballot paper and declared they had no problem.
“It is clear that those behind the scheme wanted to create voter apathy among my supporters so that they do not turn up and vote for Deputy President William Ruto,” said Mr Malala.
Mr Fernandes Barasa, the ODM governor candidate, said: “Where was the IEBC to check the ballots and detect the anomalies? We feel this a scheme by the electoral body to rig the polls. The electoral agency should explain why it has taken them long to raise the issue at the last minute.
“We are, however, asking our supporters to turn out in large numbers and vote for our presidential candidate Raila Odinga.”
The ballot papers for Kacheliba Constituency had names and photos of the Pokot South Constituency candidates.
Pokot South MP David Pkosing had earlier raised concern, calling on IEBC to investigate the matter. He said ballot papers at the constituency tallying centre in Chepareria were in Kacheliba constituency.
“There is confusion about the member of Parliament seat. The ballot papers bear the label of Pokot South constituency but inside there are only two photos and two names, yet we have three candidates for the parliamentary seat,” said Mr Pkosing.
Last evening, Azimio, through Secretary-General Junet Mohamed asked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe whether there was negligence or criminality on the part of the commission on the postponement of the polls in Kakamega and Mombasa governor races.
“Is this a coincidence? We believe it is deliberate. In a couple of days, we will invite DCI to determine whether and the extent of mischief and criminality or negligence on this issue. IEBC is required to exercise care on the printing and deployment of ballot papers,” Mr Mohamed said.
Yesterday, Mr Chebukati said that the printing firm, Inform P Lykos, admitted to the errors and said they will cater for the cost of reprinting the ballot papers.
Meanwhile, Mr Chebukati said the commission had dismissed five presiding officers in Ndhiwa Constituency who were allegedly caught by the public in the home of a candidate during a meeting believed to have been planning how to influence the outcome of elections.
He stated that the officers were replaced after recording statements with the police. “We also witnessed similar cases in Webuye East and West in Bungoma County where the issue has also been dealt with,” he said.
On security, the commission said it had experienced two attacks in Mandera and Turkana Counties.
In Turkana, bandits attacked and burned down homes and polling stations in a village within Kapedo. Mr Chebukati said the affected polling stations have since been moved to a nearby polling centre, adding that arrangements will be done and voters informed to ensure voting takes place.
In Mandera, unknown people burned down two classrooms that were to be used as voting stations, but security has been beefed up and voting will proceed as planned in the other parts of the building, said Mr Chebukati.
“The commission has partnered with the National Police Service to train and deploy over 150,000 police officers,” said the commission’s chairman. He added that two officers have been deployed to each of the polling stations.
Despite the challenges experienced, the IEBC boss said both strategic materials such as ballot papers and Kiems kits, and non-strategic materials had been moved to the polling stations in readiness for voting.
“The commission is committed, more than ever, to deliver a free, fair and credible General Election. As things stand now, we are ready for the elections which will start at 6am,” Mr Chebukati said.
He reiterated that the commission has put in place an election results management framework to ensure smooth flow of results from the polling station to the constituency and national tallying centre.
“All polling stations will open at 6am to 5pm and if there will be a delay in opening or interruption, the presiding officer should extend polling hours by the amount of time lost,” said Mr Chebukati.
Mr Chebukati also announced that the commission will abide by the Court of Appeal ruling on how to deploy the manual register.
He revealed that the commission has accredited 4,850 local and international journalists to ensure free flow of information and accurate reporting of the elections.
Additional reporting by Oscar Kakai and Sylvania Ambani