IEBC Boss to candidates: Feed, pay your agents on poll day or suffer painful consequences

In previous general elections, many agents raised complaints that their welfare is not catered for by candidates they are safeguarding their votes at polling stations. Like polling clerks and presiding officers, polling agents also wake up at dawn on election day. They are expected to arrive at polling stations at about 5.30 am. This gives them time to settle before 6.00 am when voting kicks off.

Upon completion of voting at 5.00 pm, counting of votes begins at a polling station. The counting may end at 8.00 pm or later depending on voter population and efficiency in counting the votes. In many occasions in the past, agents have complained that their political candidate or party abandoned them on elections day, leaving them with no money for meals.

But it seems many politicians are oblivious of the danger posed by a hungry polling agent. A senior Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official has opened up for elections candidates on dangers of letting poll agents go hungry.

Fredrick Apopa, the IEBC’s Elections Manager in charge of Homa Bay County is now warning candidates and parties not to neglect their agents. Apopa argues that leaving a polling agent hungry can be detrimental to their candidates.

The manager who was speaking in his office during a meeting with Homa Bay County woman rep, senatorial and gubernatorial candidates, argued that hungry agents hardly concentrate on following an electoral process.

“The moment a polling agent realizes that they are hungry after being abandoned, they start walking in and out of a polling station. This makes them unable to follow the electoral process keenly hence they can hardly notice any electoral malpractice,” Apopa said.

Apopa argued that failure to remunerate a polling agent also kills their morale, causing lack of seriousness in monitoring the electoral process.

“Some candidates don’t pay their agents. This makes the agents lose interest in safeguarding their votes,” he added.

His advice is that serious political candidates should ensure that they get serious agents. And the agent must be people who are serious and keen to follow every detail of the process. But above all, they must be paid.

“Some candidates engage agents, they don’t pay them and these agents keep walking in and out of polling station because of disenfranchisement. So ensure you pay the agents to enable them to concentrate so that they are in the picture of what takes place in the polling station,” Apopa added.

Neglecting an agent can cost politicians their victory on elections day.

Japheth Ojijo, the Programmes Co-ordinator of Intergrated Development Facility (IDF) argues that neglecting polling agents can lead to collusion between neglected agents and agents of his opponent. Ojijo argues that there are some politicians who use money to compromise agents of their strong opponents in polling stations.

“I have seen cases where an agent of a candidate is persevering hunger while agents of a rival candidate are entertained well with meals at a polling station. This can cause collusion between the hungry agents in support of an opponent who has bribed them with some money,” said Ojijo.

The Speaker of Bunge La Wenye Nchi in Ndhiwa Sub-county Milton Orwe argued that demotivation of a polling agent can make an election candidate lose victory unnecessarily.

“I have seen situations where agents score in their own goats instead of the opponent’s simply because their welfare was ignored. This results from demotivation,” Orwe added.

The Speaker argues that hunger that results from neglect of agents can make agents take revenge on the spot.

“The worst thing is that the hungry agents can be infuriated and retaliate on the spot. This can lead to electoral malpractice that favours their candidate’s opponent,” Orwe said.

Their advice is that every election candidate is expected to recruit agents and take care of their welfare as the country heads to the General election on August 9.