Bungoma County’s 646,612 voters go to the polls today to elect their senator in what has boiled down to a three-horse race pitting President William Ruto, opposition leader Raila Odinga and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula.
In the race to succeed Mr Wetang’ula after his election to the new post, Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party is looking to pull a surprise and snatch the seat from the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which is now facing a case of friendly fire with coalition partners Dr Ruto and Mr Wetang’ula facing off.
Azimio has fielded former Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi, who will be the first person after Mr Odinga to fly the coalition party’s flag.
Traditionally, Bungoma politics has been dominated by Mr Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya Party, winning all county and a majority of the National Assembly seats, save for Sirisia (Jubilee) and Webuye East and Webuye West, which were taken by President Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA). Bumula’s Nelson Jack Wamboka is a member of Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K).
Azimio has put up a spirited fight to dislodge Ford Kenya from the helm of the county. During the campaigns, the party dispatched key politicians from the region, among them Mr Odinga’s deputy in the Orange Democratic Movement, former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, and DAP-K boss Eugene Wamalwa who mounted door-to-door campaigns.
Azimio’s Wamuyinyi will battle it out with Ford Kenya’s David Wakoli and UDA’s Mwambu Mabonga.
Other candidates are Mr Wekesa Robert Sifuna (Roots Party), Mr Anjala Aaron Wafula (Republican Liberty Party), Mr Wanyonyi Geoffrey Barazah (National Ordinary People Empowerment Union), Mr Barasa Elias (People’s Empowerment Party), Mr Makokha Enock Opara (Independent), Mr Masinde Julius (Independent), Mr Munoko Raidon Wekesa (Independent) and Mr Simiyu Fredrick Busolo (Vibrant Democracy Party).
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has indicated that it is all systems go after distributing voting materials to the nine constituencies.
According to County Returning Officer Grace Rono, 9, 611 officials have been trained to oversee the by-election in the 1, 373 polling centres.
“For Kanduyi constituency, the tallying will be at Kibabii University, in Mt Elgon it will be at Kapsokwony DEB Primary and in Sirisia, vote tallying with be conducted at Sirisia Vocational Training Institute,” she said.
Other tallying centres are Kabuchai (Kisiwa technical training institute), Kimilili (Matili vocational training institute), Tongaren (Bungoma North vocational institute), Webuye East (St Michaels ACK primary school), Webuye West (St Anthony school for the deaf) and in Bumula at Kimatuni Church.
“Our officers will be dispatched to all the polling stations while others will be patrolling the region to ensure peace and order is maintained,” said County Police Commander Francis Koli.