Low voter turnout in coast region counties

IEBC Clerks clear a voter at Malindi's Central Primary School Polling Center in Kilifi County on Thursday, 26th October,2017.This was during the repeat Presidential election. [Maarufu Mohamed,Standard]

Coast region recorded poor voter turnout as most residents boycotted Thursday's repeat presidential election.

The Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) had urged supporters not to participate on the election after leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the race.

The Opposition chief cited failure by the electoral commission to implement key reforms to ensure a free and fair election as one of the main reasons for his withdrawal.

Raila's calls for an election boycott appear to have been heeded in all the counties - Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River and Lamu. However, there was some voting in a few polling stations in the western parts of Lamu.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Party enjoys some support in parts of Lamu even though Coast region is generally considered an Opposition zone.

Jubilee agents boycotted the election in Mombasa even though they were the only party agents. NASA sent no agents.

Registered less

Most polling centres had registered less than 50 voters or even none by midday. These included Taveta sub-county where area MP Naomi Shaaban of Jubilee comes from.

Most towns, including Mombasa, were deserted and almost all business premises were closed.

There was some violence reported in Bangladesh slums in Jomvu constituency, Mombasa, where residents lit bonfires and taunted police officers. They also blocked Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials and police officers from opening polling centres.

Jubilee agents in Mombasa’s Mvita and Kisauni constituencies stayed away over alleged intimidation, which party officials also linked to low voter turnout.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the party would take legal action against the “dishonest agents” who failed to show up. Mr Balala, who voted at PhD polling station, said 40 Jubilee agents in Mvita and Kisauni absconded duty but added that they were promptly replaced.

“About 40 per cent of our agents did not turn up despite the fact that we trained and paid them. We will take action against them. We have already replaced them,” Balala said.

In Bangladesh, suspected NASA supporters barricaded roads and burnt tyres in an effort to stop voting.

Chaos erupted when hundreds of Opposition supporters stormed a local primary school claiming unnamed people were stuffing ballot boxes. There were no reported casualties.

The police had a hard time accessing the slums after residents barricaded roads. The protesters also chased away IEBC officials from St Mary's Primary School polling station.

It took the intervention of Fr Gabriel Dolan, an outspoken human rights activist, to calm down youths who had started demolishing the wall of Gifted Primary School, where they alleged ballot stuffing was taking place.

Low voter turnout was witnessed in all the polling stations in Kilifi County. The stations were opened at 6am.

At Uwanjani polling centre, a few people were seen queuing even though most voting streams remained empty.

The same scenario was witnessed at Kibaoni Primary School and Kilifi Primary School polling centres in Kilifi North constituency. At Kilifi Primary School polling centre, the Kenya Integrated Management System (KIEMS) kit at stream six malfunctioned after only one person had cast his vote.

Presiding Officer Ronney Muramba said the system failed to operate. He was assisted by IEBC's ICT officers.

One voter

“The KIEMS refused to operate some minutes to 7am, after we had served only one voter. ICT officials intervened and replaced the device. However, even the new one is not functioning and we are waiting for another one to continue with voting. We are experiencing delays and the numbers are increasing,” said Mr Muramba

"This is challenging because we have many voters in the queue. Too much delay might make them think there is a plot to deny them a chance to vote."

Uwanjani polling centre Presiding Officer Dodwell Menza said no voter's name was missing from the register.

At Hola Primary School polling station, with more than 2,500 registered voters, only three people had voted by 9am.

Tana River County Returning Officer Mohamed Raka said voting was delayed in some areas due to transport hitches. There was a heavy presence of General Service Unit officers patrolling the town.

Tana River OCPD Sylvester Githungo said security had been boosted to ensure that the exercise went on smoothly.

“We have not had problems so far as security is concerned. We are working to ensure that election materials and officers have reached the polling stations safely,” he said.

There was also heavy police presence in Kisauni, Likoni and Mvita in Mombasa, even though voting was marred by low voter turnout and fears of chaos.

Coast police boss Larry Kieng' said all polling centres had been secured and that there were no reports that people had been prevented from voting.

"The exercise is going on well. We have beefed up security in all parts," said Mr Kieng'.

“What NASA succeeded in doing was to instil fear in the people and create uncertainty in the country," said Balala. "Most voters have adopted a wait-and-see attitude and we expect the turnout to pick up given things are calm."

Mombasa Jubilee activist Mohammed Thenge said the elderly and women stayed indoors for fear of attacks by protesters.

Kwale also recorded a low turnout as only a few people visited polling stations.

At Jogoo polling centre, the largest in Kwale with 6,360 registered voters, youths tried to disrupt the process by hurling stones at IEBC officers but police stopped them.

Presiding Officer Lusina Graphaily said the youths threw a few rocks at the polling centre to scare voters.

“The youths were armed with stones and had kept vigil at the polling station, causing a major scare. But police dispersed them,” he said.

[Story by Tobias Chanji, Renson Mnyamwezi, Benard Sanga, Patrick Beja, Maureen Ongala, Mkamburi Mwawasi, Nehemiah Okwembah]