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Western Kenya residents trail other regions in voter registration awareness

By Stephen Makabila | May 31st 2015

Western Kenya has posted the lowest voter education awareness in the country according to an Ipsos poll released yesterday.

According to the poll, only 10 per cent of Western residents are aware of any voter registration in their locality since the last elections, putting to question current efforts by elected leaders from the region to register at least six million voters ahead of the 2017 General Election.

While the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) is seeking to register 8 million more voters before the next General Election through the continuous voter registration exercise across the country, its Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba has underscored the need for greater sensitisation of the public, something Western MPs led by Ayub Savula (Lugari) have been vocal about.

The future in regard to voter registration does not look rosy given that IEBC faces financial constraints due to limited budgetary allocation.

Annual ceiling

Mr Chiloba told The Standard on Sunday yesterday, “National Treasury had given us an annual ceiling of Sh3.8b for our normal operations. This is the usual budget without factoring in special projects including national voter registration campaign and elections related ICTs.”

Chiloba further noted that, “early financing of such projects is important because it puts us in a position to prepare well for elections. JLAC supports IEBC on this request and we hope that the tripartite deliberations between ourselves, parliament and National Treasury will yield some good news.”

Compared to other regions, the low voter awareness levels in Western are however astonishing.

For example, even the insecurity-prone former North-Eastern Province has a higher awareness of 37 per cent, the highest in the country.

Nyanza, which neighbours Western stands at 17 per cent, at the same level with Rift Valley region which is also close to the Western-Kenya bloc.

The former Eastern Province’s voter registration awareness stands at 15 per cent, Coast and Central regions at 27 per cent each while Nairobi stands at 20 per cent.

Overall on the voter registration awareness, according to the poll, only about one-in-four (42 per cent) think that they do, though here a major partisan divide emerges, with nearly three times as many Jubilee supporters positive on this issue as compared to CORD’s (61 per cent vs. 21 per cent). Such a split is evident in regional terms as well, with almost the same contrast between respondents in Central and Nyanza (60 per cent vs. 22 per cent).

Highest support

It’s not only low voter registration awareness that is Western’s undoing. Majority of respondents from the region do not know when the next election is supposed to be held.

The poll results show only 56 per cent of Western residents know the date of the next elections (August 2017), the lowest percentage compared to other regions in the country.

In neighbouring Nyanza region, 79 per cent of the residents are aware of the election date while the awareness on this date is highest in Central region, at 89 per cent, followed by Rift Valley at 84 per cent.

In North-Eastern region, knowledge of the date stands at 70 per cent, Coast region (70 per cent), Nairobi region (73 per cent) and 80 per cent in Eastern region.

On whether the election date should be extended from August 2017 to December 2017, 56 per cent of Western residents support the idea, which enjoys the highest support from neighbouring Nyanza region at 80 per cent.

Nyanza is followed by Rift Valley region at 71 per cent, Central region at 68 per cent and Nairobi at 64 per cent.

The Coast region is the most uncomfortable with this idea with only 47 per cent supporting, Eastern region with 53 per cent supporting while North Eastern region with 58 per cent supportive of an extension.

On whether voters will have confidence in IEBC to manage the next election, only 26 per cent in Western have confidence in the Commission, while in neighbouring Nyanza region 22 per cent have confidence in it.

IEBC enjoys more confidence in Central, where 60 per cent felt it has the ability to conduct the next elections, followed by North-Eastern at 56 per cent and Rift Valley at 53 per cent.

Coast region has 48 per cent of residents who have confidence in IEBC, Eastern region 39 per cent while Nairobi has 28 per cent.

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