Outcry over postponement of polls in Mombasa, Kakamega

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Kakamega gubernatorial candidate Fernandes Barasa and his running mate Ayub Savula addressing media on August 18, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has been faulted for postponing elections in Kakamega and Mombasa counties.

In a press statement released on Wednesday, IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati said the elections alongside parliamentary races in Kitui rural, Kacheliba, Pokot South and Rongai scheduled for August 23 had been suspended, indefinitely.

Anxiety was mounting in Mombasa on August 18 over the latest development, with pockets of demonstrations in the coastal city faulting the move.

ODM candidate Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Hassan Omar of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) criticised the decision.

Nassir threatened to move to court saying the delay of the poll by Chebukati was an illegal act aimed at giving UDA an undue advantage in the race.

“This is a choreographed move by Chebukati hoping that the president-elect will be sworn in to influence the polls,” said Nassir.

But some clerks and presiding officers who spoke to The Standard in confidence said most of their colleagues have refused to conduct the polls fearing for their security.

“Other than the issue of security, IEBC is paying us peanuts. We cannot risk our lives for peanuts,” said one of the clerks who worked at Mtopanga polling station in Kisauni.

Omar said Chebukati cannot purport to postpone the Mombasa election indefinitely saying it was draining and creating anxiety in Mombasa.

“It is now draining and the anxiety is too much. Chebukati should muster courage and step forward the way you did during the declaration of presidential results,” said Omar.

He said the UDA team in Mombasa was ready for the polls and that IEBC should do justice and give the people of Mombasa a chance to exercise their rights. Both Nassir and Omar said IEBC did not consult them before it decided to postpone the polls.

The electoral body postponed the elections citing mistakes on the ballot papers. In the August 9 polls, ODM won 25 out of 30 MCA seats in Mombasa. UDA won four seats and the other went to an independent candidate.

ODM candidate Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir (centre) at a Mombasa Court on August 18, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

In Kakamega, candidates for the governor seat and voters opposed the electoral agency’s decision. ODM candidate Fernandes Barasa and his running mate Ayub Savula alleged that there could be more than meets the eye in the decision by Chebukati and vowed to challenge the decision in court.

But Senator Cleophas Malala of ANC said he has no problem with IEBC decision. “The electoral commission should conduct elections in a conducive environment. It lost one of its staff and that is regrettable," Malala said.

Some voters who spoke to The Standard in Kakamega yesterday faulted the IEBC for delaying the elections while others hailed Chebukati’s reasons for his decision.

“I believe Chebukati means well for all the candidates and voters because he wants the election to be held in a friendly environment,” said Joseph Muchesia, a Kakamega voter.

But Kakamega senator-elect Boni Khalwale raised concerns about Chebukati's decision saying it could result in a constitutional crisis.

Khalwale said that outgoing governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamenga) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa) cannot continue discharging their duties as county chiefs.

“Both Oparanya and Joho are no longer governors. MCAs in both counties must be sworn in immediately and thereafter elect their speakers who will then immediately assume office as acting governors,” Khalwale posted on Twitter.

Gitile Naituli, a professor of management and leadership said delaying the election will plunge the two counties into a crisis. “While the other 45 counties have governors, Kakamega and Mombasa are disadvantaged.”

He said operations in the two counties could be grounded until elections are held and new governors elected in accordance with the law. “I agree with those saying that MCAs must be sworn in and go ahead to elect their speakers who will act as governors until the elections are conducted even though that is not anchored in law,” Prof Naitoli said.

Malala said the reason advanced by IEBC in postponing the election for the second time was necessary. "I feel disappointed but after going through the statement from IEBC, I see sense as they explained cases of intimidation and threat to life of their staff," he said. 

[Benard Sanga, Jackline Inyanji and Robert Amalemba]