Kenya 2022: Elections marred by low-voter turnout, technology failure, bribery

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Kenya 2022: Who will win the great race?

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Wednesday, 10 August 2022 11:28, updated on Saturday, 13 August 2022 11:34

Kenya Election
An election official holds up ballots for other officials and party agents to see, as they start to count votes at a polling station in Kilimera Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

After the polls in one of Kenya’s most competitive elections ended on Tuesday evening, the focus now shifts to counting the presidential votes. Who between William Ruto and Raila Odinga will win the coveted prize?

The much-anticipated elections were marred by low voter turnout, allegations of voter bribery and technology failure.

An hour before the closure of polling stations only 12 million people out of 22 million had cast their votes in the 46,229 polling stations countrywide.

“At around 4pm 12,065,803 registered voters out of 22,120,458 registered voters had cast their votes. This equates to 56.17% excluding voting through the manual register,” said IEBC Commissioner Francis Wanderi.

By 5pm, the official closing time, the statistics had gone up by 0.53%.

There is concern that the election might fail to live up to its expectation in terms of voter turnout. Political analysts predict the turnout could be below that of the 2017 general election, which recorded 79.51%.

“The turnout is so far disappointing, and this is a pointer of voter apathy, which reflected itself during the registration of new voters late last year and early this year,” says political analyst John Charo.

Low turnout is partially to blame for delays in delivering ballot papers and technology failure in some areas.

KIEMS kit failure

In fact, some voters left polling stations without voting – despite waiting for hours – after the voter identification system, also known as the Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) kits, failed to function. The failure of the systems was reported in most parts of the country with the most affected counties being Kakamega and Makueni.

George Mukabana was one of the voters who left his polling station in Malava constituency without casting his vote after getting frustrated with the process.

I came to vote but was told to come back later because the biometric machines have failed. I am not sure whether I will come back because I walked for hours to reach here

“I was on the queue as early as 6am and I waited for more than five hours without seeing any progress. I decided to go back home because I have a job to do and a family to feed,” says Mukabana, a casual labourer.

In Makueni constituency, voters were told to come back later to give IEBC technicians a chance to fix the problem.

“I came to vote but was told to come back later because the biometric machines have failed. I am not sure whether I will come back because I walked for hours to reach here,” says John Mutinda at a polling station in Kibwezi constituency.

Manual register

The IEBC was later obliged to allow manual identification in the two counties after the Azimio La Umoja Coalition party protested against the delays in two counties considered as its strongholds.

“As late as [Monday], 8 August, the commission joined up with United Democratic Alliance in an attempt to completely outlaw the use of manual registers. Mr Chebukati [chair of the IEBC] and your commissioners are in the process of executing a flagrant contempt of court, and worse, a heinous electoral offence, ” says Paul Mwangi, the coalition’s chief legal advisor in a hard-hitting statement.

IEBC Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera said the commission allowed the use of manual registers in 84 polling stations in Kibwezi constituency and 54 polling stations in Malava, Matungu, Mumias East and Mumias West constituencies.

On the eve of the elections, the electoral body ordered its returning officers to strictly use the KIEMS kit for identifying voters after the Court of Appeal suspended an earlier decision by the high court to allow the use of manual register as backup for electronic register.

Voting was halted at polling stations that experienced technology failure as returning officers sought guidance from IEBC headquarters in Nairobi on how to proceed, leaving many voters frustrated.

Anti-IEBC demonstrations

In Nakuru county, angry youths barricaded the Nakuru-Baringo road with stones and burning tires to demonstrate the suspension of MP elections in Rongai constituency, forcing police officers to lob teargas canisters to disperse them.

Some of the voters who were already queuing were shocked to be told by the presiding officers manning the polling stations that they will not elect their preferred MP.

“IEBC must be audited after the elections and those found responsible for the mess, punished. They [the IEBC commissioners] are punishing voters who have heed[ed] their call to get out and vote,” says Joshua Kimeli, a Rongai resident.

The area MP, Raymond Moi, who is defending his seat under the Azimio La Umoja coalition party, alleged that the move was aimed at squeezing him out saying the same problem occurred in 2017.

“This is very wrong. IEBC had assured Kenyans that it was ready for the elections. It seems they were lying to us,” said Moi.

Mini-elections

The election for Rongai MP will now be conducted on 23 August along with those of Kitui Rural, Kacheliba, West Pokot and Pokot South. The election for Mombasa and Kakamega governor seats, which were suspended on the eve of the elections, will also be conducted on the same day.

“Voters in these elective areas deserve to be given a period to elect their leaders and the commissioners also need to dispense other election activities to save on cost of training and new equipment,” the IEBC’s Wanderi said.

IEBC had assured Kenyans that it was ready for the elections.

He reiterated that the mini-elections will not affect the timeline set for announcing the final presidential results.

Other issues…

There were also incidents of voter bribery at some polling stations as agents of candidates vying for various seats secretly dished out cash to voters in an effort to influence their decisions.

Two women were also arrested in Nairobi’s Kibra constituency after they were caught distributing money to voters.

In Kakamega, voters accused a former cabinet secretary of bribing boda boda (motorcycle) riders at one of the polling stations. There were also allegations of vote-bribery in Mombasa, Garissa, Mandera and Nakuru.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options
Also in this in Depth:

Kenya 2022: Voters fear election violence from resurgent Mungiki sect

With elections in Kenya just two months away, voters are worried about the resurgence of the violent Mungiki gang that unleashed ethnic violence across the country after the 2007 poll.

Kenya 2022: What to expect in this year’s most competitive elections

Political analysts have billed this year’s election as one of the most competitive in Kenya’s history, pitting deputy president William Ruto against the godfather of opposition politics Raila Odinga. There is already fear that the cut-throat competition for the top seat might fail to produce an outright winner hence forcing a run-off.

Kenya: Who’s who in Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja alliance?

Presidential contender and former prime minister Raila Odinga is counting on his skills in building a coalition to take on deputy president William Ruto in the August 2022 polls. One Kenya Alliance leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi have joined Raila's Azimio la Umoja coalition, setting the stage for a face-off with deputy president William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Kenya 2022: Who’s who in William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance?

In early April, Deputy President William Ruto, a presidential contender, admitted eight new people to his Kenya Kwanza Alliance, bringing the total number of political parties to 12. However, unlike Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja - a registered coalition party - Kenya Kwanza is an alliance of parties. We outline those closest to Ruto in the alliance.

Kenya: Why Raila & Ruto remain quiet on land justice issues

For the first time in decades, Kenya’s leading presidential candidates are skirting around the explosive issue of land justice – instead of exploiting it as a way to mobilise voters to their campaigns.   Both candidates – for different reasons – have chosen to accept the status quo on legal regime on land rights

Kenya 2022: Who is Rigathi Gachagua, Ruto’s running mate?

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has picked an ardent critic of President Uhuru Kenyatta to deputise him for the next five years should he win the August presidential election.

Kenya 2022: Raila promises the moon with Azimio manifesto

Presidential candidate Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition manifesto promises voters a range of freebies that many political analysts believe will be impossible to fully deliver if he wins the 9 August elections. Will Kenya's 22 million registered voters take the bait?

Can Kenya’s ‘Iron Lady’ Martha Karua push Raila over the top?

Presidential candidate Raila Odinga made Kenyan history this month when he chose as his running mate the first woman to ever join a major party ticket. But will she be able to push the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance leader to the top?

Kenya 2022: Your guide to the four presidential candidates

On 9 August, more than 22 million Kenyan voters will head to polling stations to choose who will be their leader for the next five years. Four men have presented themselves to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. Who are they, and what are they offering?

Kenya 2022: Is Kenyatta losing his grip to Ruto in home turf of Kiambu County?

Kenya’s general election has been billed as a contest between political dynasties versus self-made politicians. Kiambu County, which is part of the larger Mt. Kenya region, has traditionally been a vote bank for President Uhuru Kenyatta. But with Deputy President William Ruto gaining in strength, will this election mark the end of Kenyatta influence on Kiambu politics?

Kenya 2022: Electoral battlegrounds to watch during polling day

Kenya's two leading presidential candidates are banking on voter turnout in their respective regional strongholds to win the coveted prize. Final opinion polls show former Prime Minister Raila Odinga pulling ahead of Deputy President William Ruto, but a run-off — the first in the nation's history — looms as a possibility. Which regions will determine the big race?

Kenya 2022 elections: Taxes, costlier loans top concerns for businesses ahead of polls

What does Kenya's business community want from the new government that is set to be elected on 9 August?

Kenya 2022: Whose mobilising strategy will win voters?

As Kenya's election day nears, the top presidential contenders William Ruto and Raila Odinga have shifted focus on getting out the vote to ensure a first round win. Who will have the perfect strategy to deliver the knock-out blow on 9 August?

Kenya 2022: Who will be crowned leader of voter-rich Nakuru county?

Kenya’s top presidential candidates William Ruto and Raila Odinga have been competing for attention in the voter-rich Rift Valley region.

Kenya: Why arrest of Venezuelans fuels fear of post-poll turmoil

What appeared as a normal arrest of  a foreigner at Kenya’s main airport has now turned into a major row between the electoral commission and the police, threatening to throw one of the country’s most competitive elections into disarray. Will the elections be deemed credible after all is done and dusted?

Kenya 2022: Could George Wajackoyah force a runoff between Ruto and Odinga?

Kenya's fringe presidential candidate George Wajackoyah is causing shockwaves in the political battlefield with some analysts fearing that his rising popularity might force a run-off for the first time in the country’s history. Is the Wajackoyah effect real or just a passing cloud?

Kenya 2022: Debt, corruption, and living costs top concerns as Kenyans go to polls

A mix of fear and hope hangs over Kenya as more than 22 million registered voters get the chance to elect the country’s next president on Tuesday.

As Kenya voted, the East Africa region watched in awe, desperation

The East African region has been watching Kenya's recent elections unfold. In Uganda, the election evoked recollections of last year's election, which were characterised by violence meted out on opposition politicians. In South Sudan, one of the countries where Kenyans in the diaspora voted, its citizens wondered when their country will hold its first election. Meanwhile, many Tanzanians praised the maturity of Kenya’s democracy.

Kenya elections 2022: Results awaited as candidates ask why so many people did not vote

As Kenyans wait for final results of the tight presidential race pitting deputy president William Ruto against former prime minister Raila Odinga, questions still linger why Kenyans defied the clarion call to turn out in large numbers and vote. Why did millions of Kenyans stay away?

Kenya 2022: International observers praise voting, warn on disinformation

As Kenyans wait for the final presidential results, international observers – in their preliminary reports – say the voting exercise was largely peaceful, even though there has been spread of disinformation that confused some voters.

Kenya 2022: Why Kenyans must wait before results are announced

22.1 million Kenyan voters are expected to head to their voting stations to choose who their leaders for the next five years will be. However, Kenyans will have to wait nearly a week to find out who will be the winner of this highly anticipated election due to the strict legal regime of the tallying process. We break down the process and voting technicalities.

Kenya 2022: Ruto declared winner of presidential election, Raila to contest in court

After nearly a week of tallying ballots, Kenya's Independent Electoral Bureau Commission (IEBC) has officially declared Deputy President William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance as the fifth president of the country.

Kenya 2022: Raila and Ruto are poaching star journalists as the independent media declines

With less than six months before one of the tightest presidential elections in Kenya’s history, the two main contenders have recruited journalists for leading roles in their campaign.

Kenya: Why does the electoral commission struggle with elections each time?

Despite being allocated billions of shillings every five years, the electoral body continues to fail the test of delivering a free, fair and verifiable presidential election leaving many voters worried about the country’s political future. Is delivering an uncontested presidential election in Kenya an impossible task? And what really happened this time round?