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Blatant vote stealing and rigging in party nominations

Residents of Chepkorio display copies of ballot papers that were recovered in an Elgeyo Marakwet County Government vehicle as it was headed to a tallying centre. A woman occupant, an employee of the County Government was arrested. 24-04-2017. PHOTOS BY: KEVIN TUNOI

Once again big names associated with Opposition leader Raila Odinga fell in ODM primaries in Nyanza region as new blood came on board.

First to fall was Raila’s elder brother, Oburu Oginga followeed by party Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, the Gem MP.

Also to face the axe was Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo who was fighting for Siaya governorship. However, for ODM’s top legal mind James Orengo it was a smooth sail for the Siaya Senate seat.

Anyang’ Nyong’o, though declared winner for Kisumu governor race, was still fighting because the incumbent, Jack Ranguma, had said he was rigged out.

The fall of the big names came as violence, kidnap, bribery, ballot stuffing, disenfranchise were the vices deployed with ruthless efficiency to rig the ongoing party primaries.

Naive aspirants who believed in free and fair elections have been left licking their wounds. Some have branded the blatant theft the worst in recent times. And it is being abetted by party bosses who have chosen to look the other way. In some cases even the party, for self preservation, has helped in the schemes to defeat democracy.

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In Homa bay, almost all returning officers from the eight sub counties went underground after they broke the law by declaring certain aspirants winners before the total tally was in. They quickly switched off their phones.

Cooked results

Former Minister Ochilo Ayacko who was vying for ODM’s Migori governor’s seat got hold of a returning officer who had resigned from his post over alleged security concerns and made him declare him the nominee for the governor’s post. Earlier his rival Governor Okoth Obado had been declared the winner.

“They have been cooking the results the whole night. They have really cooked a good meal. They did not only cook the results but stole our votes. I have never seen anything like this,” Ochillo said.

He added: “They intimidated and kidnapped returning officers who were not willing to cooperate.”

But the Obado team denied the allegations and said it was Ayacko who had been cooking results at a hotel within Migori town.

“One of his allies and two party election officials were arrested with ballot papers in a hotel room as they tried to stuff ballot boxes. We have pictures of these guys in hand-cuffs,” said an aide to Obado.

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In Homa bay, businessman Fred Rabongo – who was vying for the Senate seat, said he was shocked at the blatanttheft of votes in the nominations.

“At this rate, we should stop complaining that our votes have been stolen by Jubilee because we are also very good at it. The kind of vote theft witnessed in Homa bay is unbelievable. They said the governor got 46,000 votes and that the senator aspirant declared the winner got only 1,900 from the entire county of more than 300,000 voters. This is outright theft.”

In Kisumu, returning officer Tom Okongo hurriedly convened a meeting at Thudibuoro in Nyakach, some 70km from Kisumu town to declare Anyang’ Nyong’o as the ODM governor’s nominee even though tallying in all seven sub counties had gone on for three hours.

A few minutes later, governor Jack Ranguma was also declared the winner by another returning officer.

Okongo could not explain to the media where he got the figures from yet none of the presiding officers had filed their reports to him.

“Obviously, the figures were cooked. The returning officer must have been under duress to make some announcement,” said Charles Okindu, an agent of one of the candidates.

Rigging techniques

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In Siaya, Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo – who has been campaigning to unseat Governor Cornell Rasanga, said he had come face to face with rigging techniques after the governor was declared the winner.

“The figures announced by the returning officers are not adding up. The whole process has been manipulated. This is terrible,” he said.

In Busia county, Funyula MP Paul Otuoma chose to run for the governor’s seat as an independent candidate to protest results that showed Governor Sospeter Ojamoong had won.

The returning officer, Justice Vitalis Juma (Rtd), had announced Ojaamong garnered 92,358 votes against Otuoma’s 63,752.

Otuoma and his supporters protested the outcome citing unusually high turnouts in Teso South and Teso North that in some cases exceeded registered number of voters.

Teso South constituency had 41,000 registered voters, but Juma announced that Ojaamong had garnered 44,369 votes and Otuoma 1,357. In Teso North he announced that Ojaamong, had 33,349 and Otuoma 3303 against the 37,000 registered voters.

Otuoma dismissed the figures and declared himself the winner.

“There is no way Teso South and Teso North people can vote beyond the total number that is in the IEBC register. It is glaring and obvious, those charged with responsibility of managing the elections should look into that,” he said.

Ojaamong, however, maintained the electorate came out in large numbers. He said he will not lodge a complaint to the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal. He said it was evident he was the legitimate winner.

“My opponent started alleging that nominations had already been rigged so it is something that was in his mind,” he said, insisting that Teso South and Teso North have at least 60,000 and 50,000 registered voters respectively.

ODM national election board was compelled to order a repeat vote in the two regions but Otuoma chose to decamp arguing the exercise is in futility.

At the Coast, ODM initially announced a repeat election would take place in four polling stations in Taveta sub-county where the party said rains had disrupted the vote.

At the time, both governor John Mruttu and his main challenger Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu had claimed victory.

Later, the party announced that the National Elections Board following a review of the case of Taita Taveta County had directed that the planned exercise in four polling stations in Taveta sub-county will not be held. It has since emerged that Mwadeghu will be granted the party’s ticket.

Mruttu has cried foul because the zones where the polling never happened are his perceived strongholds.

Things are not any different in Jubilee where use of varying register of voters – from the electoral commission’s 2013 register of voters to only requiring that a national identity card is sufficient to vote – are being seen as schemes to influence the vote.

In Kirinyaga, governor Joseph Ndathi claimed the nominations on Monday were not credible because some ballot papers did not have serial numbers. He said they had raised their concerns with the Jubilee headquarters last Saturday after the abortive polls the previous day but no action was taken.

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Vote tampering

“How can you send in party nomination ballot papers without serial numbers and also ballot papers which are just photocopies?” Ndathi asked.

In Kitui county, allegations of vote tampering and delays in delivering results marred Wiper party nominations.

An MP and a sacked county government executive officer were arrested in Kitui town after they were allegedly found with ballot papers marked in favour of one of the governor seat aspirants. They were later released but their accomplices remained behind bars at Kitui Central Police Station.

Wednesday, results trickled in slowly, forcing the tallying officials at Kitui Multipurpose Centre to suspend the exercise.

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Oburu Oginga, Jakoyo Midiwo beaten in ODM primaries