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.


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.

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