Kenya’s General Election on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, was marred by low voter turnout in some key voting blocks around the country compared to voting patterns in previous elections.
At the close of polling stations, official figures from the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) put the voter turnout at 56.17 per cent, with their own projections indicating a 60 per cent final turnout, figures that pale in significance to the turnout in the previous two elections.
In 2013, some 86 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote while in 2017 the figure stood at 78 per cent.
The subdued voter turnout may have been bad for individual candidates banking on a huge turnout, but it was worse for Kenya’s path to credible and representative elections.
The IEBC, under siege for most of the day yesterday over failure of the By 4pm, IEBC put the voter turnout at 56.17 per cent, with their projections indicating a 60 per cent final turnout. and the cancellation of two governor elections as well as several national assembly and county assembly polls, insisted that the turnout was not out of the ordinary.
“There are many reasons that may cause low voter turnout. But as of now (4pm), we are doing well because voting is still ongoing,” IEBC Commissioner Francis Wanderi said at the Bomas of Kenya. “I do not think there is low voter turnout. In some areas it is very high. I think by the time we close the station and get the final result I am sure we are going to hit anywhere above 60 per cent,” he said.
Azimio flagbearer Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard registered a mixed bag of fortunes. While some places recorded turnouts above the projected national figure, other places were marked with low turnout.
The problem was compounded by the failure of IEBC Kiems kits that led to delays in several polling stations, thus discouraging some voters who had stood in line for hours waiting for the process to start.
In Kisumu, however, high voter turnout was registered in the region, with leaders applauding residents for turning up in their numbers to exercise their democratic right.
In the region, some of the voters spent the night in polling stations in anticipation of the polls and had engaged in song and dance. They claimed they were optimistic the leaders they were backing for various seats would carry the day.
Rift Valley, the bedrock of UDA presidential candidate William Ruto, just like Nyanza, recorded a huge turnout of voters, particularly across the North Rift as voting came to a close at 5pm.
In polling stations from Nandi to Turkana counties, voters started lining up as early as 4am as they waited patiently for IEBC clerks to open the station.
In West Pokot, a survey in several polling stations within Kapenguria Constituency showed that voters started trickling in as early as 5am.
In some polling stations, some Kiems kits were slow to capture voters’ details, thus delaying the voting.
Some areas like Alale, Marich and Orolwo reported technical hitches, with some devices not working properly and Safaricom network weak.
In Uasin Gishu, several voters spent hours amidst long queues in Kapseret, Kesses, Turbo and other areas waiting for their turn to cast their votes.
Central Kenya, a key battle ground for the two top candidates, also recorded a mixed bag of results.
Kiambu County, which has recorded some of the highest voter turnout numbers in the past, was no different from the rest of the country. By midday, most polling stations in Ruiru, Gatundu South, Gatundu North and Juja had recorded less than 30 per cent turnout.
Ruiru Returning Officer Bernard Onyango said only 20 per cent voter turnout had been recorded at the time we went to press.
“Most of the voters in this region are businessmen and farmers. We are assuming they attended to their daily undertakings and maybe as the day progresses they will come before 5pm,” said Onyango.
Mary Ndungu, Juja returning officer, said voter turnout was 29.5 per cent by 11am.
Most of the candidates for various elective seats expressed fears over the low voter turnout. Kiambu County has 1.2 million voters with a total of 2,117 polling stations across the 12 sub-counties. Some of the polling stations that had just a handful of voters were Mirithu, Nderu, Thigio and Kamangu.
In Kirinyaga County, voter turnout stood at 45 per cent by 4pm, according to IEBC Coordinator Jane Gitonga.
In Nairobi, a spot check in Makadara, Ruaraka and Embakasi Central constituencies revealed varying observations.
At Kariokor ward in Starehe Constituency, the short queues puzzled some, with residents blaming voter apathy.
“There were no long queues as has been the case in previous elections. This queue used to stretch all the way from Kariokor to River Road, but today we are only within the social hall compound. I think people are tired of politics,” said a voter.
However, at the Lucky Summer grounds polling station in Ruaraka Constituency, there were long but moving queues. The same case was observed in Thawabu Primary School polling station, Embakasi Central.
At Jericho Primary School polling station in Makadara Constituency, there were virtually no queues, and while voters agreed it was unlike previous elections, some felt the IEBC deserved the credit for the efficacy.
“I voted in less than two minutes, unlike in 2017 when I queued for hours,” said Grace Sila.
The situation was no different in Western Kenya, where in some polling stations, voters left without casting their ballot as a result of faulty kits, or waited until early afternoon to vote using the manual registers.
A spot check by The Standard in Malava Constituency showed voters were still queuing by 5pm at Lunyinya Primary School polling station in South Kabras Ward.
In Shinyalu, a network hitch caused voting delays. Vihiga County recorded above-average voter turnout with isolated cases of delays.
In Bungoma, voting was delayed due to faulty kits in several polling stations, but voting went on as planned.
In Kajiado County, voting went on smoothly despite low turnout in various polling stations.
Residents attributed the low turnout to severe drought that caused suffering to the residents.
“A large number of people in rural areas are not at home, they have left to search for water and pasture for their animals,” said Bejamin Nasaro, a resident of Lenkisim in Kajiado South Constituency.
A spot check in some polling stations in Kajiado Central and Kajiado West showed many people had abandoned their manyattas.
However, at Dr Lekimani Primary School in Kitengela, there were long queues in the morning.
In Eastern, an unusually low voter turnout was experienced in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni counties.
Although majority of the polling centres were open as early as 6.30am, short queues were conspicuous in nearly all polling stations.
At the Mulu Mutisya Grounds polling station in Machakos Town Constituency, only a handful of voters had turned out to cast their ballots by 8am.
[Report by Fidelis Kabunyi, Erastus Mulwa, Phillip Muasya, Nancy Nzau, George Njunge, Peterson Githaiga, Allan Mungai, Olivia Odhiambo, Washington Onyango, Erick Abuga and Anne Atieno.]