Landslide victory for CORD, Mutula Kilonzo Junior


MAKUENI; KENYA: Mutula Kilonzo Junior of Wiper Democratic Party is the Makueni Senator-elect after he emerged a victor in the Friday by-election.

After days of legal battles and bad-tempered campaigns, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy crushed its Jubilee rivals, handing them and all others a major defeat. When the final results are announced on Saturday, their candidate, 38-year-old Mutula Jnr, will be the country’s newest Senator-elect after a race that he dramatically entered just five days to polling day.

Any hopes Jubilee had of taking the seat came unstuck when they failed to stop the inclusion of a Wiper candidate despite spirited challenges in court and in an electoral dispute tribunal. The victory has been viewed as a protest vote against the Jubilee Alliance by Makueni residents in response to a move that saw Mutula Jnr’s popular younger sister Kethi locked out of the race.

Kethi, 36, faced numerous tribulations at the hands of NARC, a Jubilee affiliate, after she declared her intentions to run for the seat left vacant following her father’s sudden death on April 27. Locked out by the courts for not being a validly registered voter, she was replaced by her elder brother, who entered the race a clear frontrunner from the word go. His four opponents had already been campaigning for more than three weeks.

Long before tallying ended, it was clear the winner was going to be the son of the late Mutula Kilonzo, Makueni’s first senator. With all 896 polling stations reporting, provisional results showed the Wiper candidate had 159,519 votes (90 per cent of the total). His closest rival, Jubilee’s Prof Philip Kaloki, had only 9,587 votes. Only one of Makueni’s six constituencies, Kibwezi East, had Jnr getting less than 90 per cent of the vote. The rest were emphatically his.

PICK’s Harun Mwau, who managed more than 50,000 votes just four months ago, was third with 6,366 votes. The other two candidates, one from LPK and the other an independent, trailed the pack with less than a thousand votes. Since Mutula’s death, the Jubilee Coalition has fought a brazen battle to block any member of the Mutula family hoping to succeeding their father on a CORD ticket. First, Kethi was approached to declare her candidacy on a NARC ticket. When she turned the party down, her stepmother, Mutula’s second wife, was briefly prompted to declare she would run. Later, NARC led a challenge on Kethi’s voter registration status. This seems to have been their undoing, as it sent the wrong message to the people of Makueni.

Immediately Kethi was unveiled by CORD, NARC sent Press statements to newsrooms declaring that she was not a registered voter. Whereas the matter was at first not taken seriously, President Uhuru’s TNA party, which is in the Jubilee Coalition with William Ruto’s URP, pressed on. And even after Kethi appeared at Makueni IEBC offices and was cleared, TNA pursed the matter with the IEBC disputes resolution tribunal, which was to later declared her ineligible, noting that she was not registered as a voter.

All this while time was running out even as Kethi appealed against the decision to bar her from the polls. Last Friday the High Court upheld IEBC’s decision but give CORD a lifeline by allowing the Wiper Party to nominate another candidate and present them to IEBC the next day in Wote.

Fanatical support

All this while the residents of Makueni, where the late Mutula Kilonzo and CORD had fanatical support, having been elected by close to 160,000 votes with his closest rival at 50,000, were growing impatient as they had already warmed up to Kethi and would hear nothing else. To add insult to injury, soon after Mutula Jnr was picked following the court order, it later emerged that the IEBC had already printed ballot papers excluding his name, a move that seems to have even angered the people of Makueni more.

But what seems to have taken away the few votes Jubilee could have enjoyed was another move that the party made by attempting to also have Mutula Jnr barred from contesting in the by-election.

With all this drama, it later emerged that the die had been cast. Although he only campaigned for two days, residents had already made up their minds. He had the right name and was in the right party.

Yesterday, County Returning Officer Guracha Boru said the electorate might have to wait until midday today when the commission is expected to formally announce the winner. He gave the deadline of between 12pm and 1pm as the likely time for the announcement of the official final results.

He said he must wait for all Forms 35 (Declaration of Results at Polling Station in respect of the Senator by-elections) to be brought to the county tallying centre in Wote town from all the polling stations. Guracha, however, said provisional results would be transmitted to the tallying centre earlier. He said the polls kicked off smoothly, contrary to the much-anticipated electoral violence owing to ugly incidents witnessed in some centres hours before the election. He added he was impressed by the turnout of voters pointing out that by-elections have always attracted low voter turnout before.

Residents had expressed hope that the election would be free and fair and that their wishes would be respected. The voters called on the electoral body to ensure there was no rigging to redeem its dented image. “We came out to exercise our democratic rights by voting for the candidate of our choice and we expect our choice will be respected,” said Eunice Kalewa, a voter.

Earlier in the day, candidates had expressed divergent views over the electoral process that was preceeded by drama, inside and outside of court even on the eve of the polls.

Reporting by Moses Njagi, Daniel Nzia and Onesmus Nzioka.

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