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Poor planning and low budget blamed for poor voter listing

NATIONAL
By Moses Nyamori | October 27th 2021

 

IEBC personnel wait for potential voters to register at Whispers Ground in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Poor planning and mobilisation by the electoral agency as well as budgetary constraints have been linked to low turnout in the ongoing mass voter registration.

The feeling by the youth that their vote may not count in the next year's General Election has also been blamed on the apathy in the exercise that has entered its final week.

Only 800,462 new voters have been enlisted in the last three weeks against a target of at least six million.

Millions of the targeted eligible voters are currently either in college or away from their rural areas where a majority would consider as preferred polling centres.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) deployed only three Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) to each of the 1,450 wards spread across the country and other remote ones at the constituencies.

The commission budget of Sh4 billion to undertake the mass voter registration was not honoured by the National Treasury, as Parliament only appropriated Sh1.2 billion of which Sh538 million went to temporary staff wages while the balance went to materials, transport and logistics.

The financial constraints has forced voter registration clerks to move the registration centres to different stations to cover the wards, some of which are expansive.

Further, due to budget constraints, the commission failed to conduct civic education to sensitise eligible voters.

In its weekly update, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced plans to deploy BVR kits to universities and colleges to enlist the students with national identification cards.

“The commission is cognizant of the fact that a good number of the targeted new voters are currently in session at various institutions of higher learning,” said Mr Chebukati last week.

“The BVR kits will be available in all campuses and other institutions based on schedules jointly prepared with students' representatives and shared widely.”

It is not, however, clear how many kits were deployed to learning institutions given the shortage. The commission deployed 7,720 BVR kits countrywide, with 4,350 taken to the wards.

Another 290 kits have been deployed to constituencies for those seeking to transfer their voting centres, while another 52 kits have been deployed to Huduma Centres for those away from their preferred polling stations.

At least 2,900 kits have been set aside as backup while another 128 have been allocated to counties that are vast.

The Elections Observation Group National Coordinator Mulle Musau yesterday said the commission has to plan for another mass registration early next year to avoid locking out millions of eligible voters.

Mr Musau said the apathy was partly because of lack of awareness campaigns by the electoral commission.

He also blamed IEBC for failing to engage other stakeholders for mobilisation.

“There was lack of robust and targeted awareness campaigns. I am also not sure if we have enough stakeholder engagement with media, political parties, civil society organisations and faith organisations,” said Musau.

“The targets were also unrealistic because they are based on eligible voters not willing and available voters. A comprehensive stakeholder engagement would have given more input on reach out."

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said many youth have a feeling that their vote may not count. “I have spoken to many young people during drives I conducted in Nairobi, most recently in Komarock Ward, Embakasi Central. The overwhelming reason for their failure to register is that they do not think their vote will count anyway,” he said.

Previous General Elections have been marred with claims of vote rigging. In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election was annulled by the Supreme Court for not being credible.

Sifuna faulted the IEBC for failure to conduct civic education.

But Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni attributed the situation to failure by IEBC to engage the politicians. “They have been telling us this is their work, but they now understand that without politicians they cannot mobilise voters,” said Mr Kioni.

When Chebukati launched the exercise in Nakuru, he appealed to politicians to help the commission in mobilising eligible voters.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said leaders seeking higher officers have failed to inspire youth.

The candidacy of the Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga – the perceived presidential front runners – has somehow failed to entice their respective strongholds to register in large numbers.

Uhuru’s Mt Kenya backyard has also posted dismal results. In the vote-rich region, Nyandarua County has recorded 8,946 new voters, Nyeri 9,246, Kirinyaga 9,676 and Murang'a 12,404.

In Kiambu, only 25,427 have turned up to register, while Meru, Tharaka-Nithi and Embu have enlisted 24,279, 6,634 and 7,902 respectively.

Cumulatively, the eight counties have registered a paltry 104,514 new voters out of the targeted 1,317,161.

In Ruto’s backyard of Rift Valley, Elgeyo/Marakwet County has enlisted 11,186 new voters, Uasin Gishu 20,803, Nandi 20,152, Baringo 14,998, Kericho 16,730 and Bomet 17, 264.

The six counties have registered 101,133 new voters in the last three weeks. The commission has targeted at least 621,932.

Raila’s Luo Nyanza counties of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya have enlisted 79,876 new voters.

Siaya, Raila's home county, has only 18,772 new voters out of 149,247 target. Similar apathy has been witnessed in Kisumu where only 23,568 have turned up out of the expected 175,847.

Homa Bay has enlisted 16,086 out of 155,799, while Migori with 126,446 eligible voters has only added 21,450 to IEBC’s roll.

Raila on Monday toured Kisumu and rallied residents to turn up and enlist.

Kisii and Nyamira counties have enlisted 42,561 cumulatively out of 269,569.

In Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s backyard of Kitui, Makueni and Machakos counties, only 53,140 new voters have been enlisted. The three counties have a combined target of 494,516 new voters.

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