Kenya 2022: IEBC suspends voting for elective positions in 4 areas

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Tuesday, 9 August 2022 10:10

Poling stations open at the Kibera primary school in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

As voting kicked-off across Kenya on Tuesday morning, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) already encountered problems after suspending elections for four elective positions in certain counties.

Numerous assurances on the country’s election preparedness by the IEBC officials proved false after ballot papers for two counties were found to contain massive errors rendering them useless.

The ballot papers for Kakamega and Mombasa counties for their gubernatorial candidates as well as those for Kacheliba and Pokot South parliamentary seats had incorrect names and images of aspirants, forcing the electoral body to suspend elections in the affected areas at the last minute.

“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,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said during a press conference on Monday night.

Chebukati said the printing firm, Inform Lykos, had admitted to the errors and will cater for the cost of reprinting the affected ballot papers.

The decision comes a few weeks after the electoral officials inspected the printing of ballot papers in Greece and confirmed to the Kenyan public that the process was “up to standard”.

The latest development means that voters in the affected areas will only vote for the other five elective positions. The six elective seats Kenyans are voting for are that of president, governor, member of parliament, women representative, senator and member of county assembly.

Sharp criticism

The announcement drew sharp criticism from both Azimio La Umoja Coalition Party and Kenya Kwanza Alliance officials who accused the electoral body of planning “something fishy”.

Azimio Secretary General Junet Mohamed wondered why the printing errors only affected areas considered the coalition party’s strongholds. “Is this a coincidence? We believe it is deliberate and a function of negligence,” he said.

He called for an audit of IEBC saying the commissioners should not go scot-free this time round if they are found to be responsible for mishandling the elections.

I […] fear[…] that the move will affect voter turnout in the two counties

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya also expressed concern over IEBC’s decision to suspend voting in key areas.

“I […] fear[…] that the move will affect voter turnout in the two counties [Mombasa and Kakamega] that Raila Odinga [Azimio Coalition party presidential candidate] was banking on to propel him to victory.

Tension in Kakamega

According to Oparanya, the announcement had caused tension in Kakamega and had the potential of causing chaos if not handled well.

The coalition party’s gubernatorial aspirant for Kakamega county, Ferdinand Barasa, shared similar sentiments, alleging that the move was aimed at suppressing voter turnout in Odinga’s strongholds.

“The IEBC has been telling us all along that it is well prepared for the elections then at the very last minute it reveals its unpreparedness. This is very unfair both for the candidates and voters,” said Barasa.

The decision was also criticised by his Kenya Kwanza rival Cleophas Malala, who questioned IEBC’s decision claiming he would have won the seat.

“We were destined for victory after gruelling campaigns. Now we are focused on getting out the vote for our presidential candidate William Ruto,” said Malala.

There was also disappointment in Mombasa county. Azimio coalition gubernatorial candidate Abdulswamad Nassir also questioned why the printing errors only affected Azimio strongholds.

“Mombasa and Kakamega are Azimio strongholds hence we are reading mischief in it all. We however urge our supporters to turn out in large numbers to vote for Raila Odinga,” said Nassir.

His rival, Hassan Omar of Kenya Kwanza, also expressed disappointment, but urged his supporters not to despair.

“Kenya Kwanza’s popularity has been on the rise in Mombasa and Kakamega counties that is why we are suspicious of the decision. However, we are confident we will win the seat when a new date for the gubernatorial election is announced,” said Omar.

Disappointed voters

George Wamalwa, one of the many voters who had travelled from Nairobi to Kakamega to vote, also said he was frustrated with the IEBC’s last minute decision.

“I paid KSh3000 ($25.17) to travel to Kakamega to vote for all the six elective posts only to be let down by the IEBC. Those responsible for this setback should be held to account,” said Wamalwa.

This is one of the most competitive elections in Kenya’s history and if IEBC starts casting doubts in voters’ minds even before they cast their ballots then the country is facing a major disaster

In Mombasa, Salim Mwangale expressed fear that the commission’s callous attitude towards the election might plunge the country into violence, especially if the outcome is contested.

“When will Chebukati and his officers learn to be serious? I fear this election might be bungled yet again,” said Mwangale.

Political analyst John Charo warned that such last minute decisions were a recipe for chaos and urged the electoral commission to treat this year’s election with utmost care.

“This is one of the most competitive elections in Kenya’s history and if IEBC starts casting doubts in voters’ minds even before they cast their ballots then the country is facing a major disaster,” said Charo.

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