Voter registration got off to an indifferent start in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s stronghold of Central Kenya.
Only a fraction of the targeted voters in the region had turned up for registration since the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) rolled out the nationwide exercise on October 4.
Kiambu, Nyeri, Murang’a, Embu, Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Mombasa, Nairobi and Kitui are among the poorly performing counties.
Eight counties from Rift Valley and Northern Kenya have so far recorded the highest percentage of registered voters, though still way below the IEBC projections. Samburu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot, Nandi, Baringo, Tana River, Narok, Wajir, Turkana and Mandera have recorded the highest figures.
Deputy President William Ruto enjoys massive support in seven out of the 10 counties that had the highest combined percentage score of 43 per cent within the first week of registration.
Nairobi and Mombasa counties, where ODM leader Raila Odinga has a huge following, have only registered four and two per cent of targeted voters, respectively. Kitui County, which forms the political base of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, is also underperforming.
Latest IEBC data shows 202,518 new voters were registered in the last seven days, way below the expected target of 1.5 million.
The 30-day drive targets about six million new voters ahead of the 2022 General Election.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati yesterday urged the State and other interested parties to help in the mobilisation of eligible voters to register.
Mr Chebukati blamed the slow progress on voter apathy and insecurity in some parts of the country. “The commission shall continue to explore solutions to these identified challenges in collaboration with all stakeholders in the electoral process,” he said.
The IEBC boss also cited lack of national identity cards and the culture of last-minute rush as other reasons for the poor turnout.
“In 2017, the commission took note that Kenyans did not optimally utilise the early days to register. The consequence was a mud rush and long queues in the last days to the close of the registration drive. Let us reverse this trend by shredding off the tag of ‘last minute rush’,” said Mr Chebukati.
There were over 19 million registered voters in the run-up to the August 2017 polls. IEBC hopes to register more than 25 million voters by the end of the ongoing exercise.
Tana River was among the counties that recorded the highest percentage of targets achieved in a week. In past campaigns, counties from Mt Kenya and Luo Nyanza, buoyed by their regional kingpins, topped in voter registration.
But with President Kenyatta stepping down at the end of his second term, could this be a tell-tale sign of what the turnout in the 2022 polls could be for a region that will not be fronting a strong candidate?
Mr Odinga is yet to declare his interest in the elections though he has had several meetings with business and political leaders from Mt Kenya as well as held rallies to popularise his vision for the country.
It’s unclear whether his delay in announcing his candidature could be the reason for the slow progress in his Nyanza backyard. At eight per cent, Samburu tops the 10 counties with the highest recorded numbers though still dismally at 2,128, compared to the weekly target of 27,059.
The commission has deployed 7,720 Biometric Voter Registration kits countrywide for the drive. A total of 4,350 kits have been distributed in the wards. There’s also a kit in each constituency to register university and college students.
The commission has also stationed 52 kits in Huduma centres, 128 in ‘vast counties’ and 2,900 for back-up in case some fail.