The stage is set for a confrontation between the National Super Alliance (Nasa) and the government over the opposition coalition’s plan to station its supporters at polling stations across the country on election day.
On Saturday, senior Nasa politician James Orengo maintained the coalition would have its supporters at the voting centres, in a strategy referred to as adopt-a-polling-station, and dared Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to eject them.
Addressing the media at the Kisumu International Airport, Mr Orengo said Nasa would have its volunteers and supporters at the 40,883 polling stations countrywide.
Among their tasks will be to prevent bribery.
“Mr Matiang’i has particularly attacked our plans which we will continue with and ensure other than our polling agents, we will have volunteers and supporters of Nasa who are adopting polling stations.
Their duty will be to ensure electoral areas are safe from any misconduct,” Mr Orengo said.
He went on: “They will ensure no bribery takes place at the polling stations and will continue urging our people to turn up in large numbers and vote.”
He said the supporters will also be tasked with ensuring no foreign materials enter the stations, part of the efforts to ensure there is no rigging.
“They will ensure the process that takes place after the polling and counting of votes are done, which is a free and fair transmission of election results, is accurate,” he said.
Mr Orengo said just like election observers, who have nothing directly to do with elections, are coming in to observe what will happen in the polling stations, their adopt-a-polling station agents will make sure no electoral malpractice occurs.
“We, as key stakeholders, will have people to observe what is happening,” he said. “This influenced our policies on adopt a polling station.”
Dr Matiang’i had on Friday warned against deploying people other than those allowed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to polling stations.
“We will follow the IEBC circular which outlines who should be at the polling station. Anyone who is not mentioned should be removed in the fastest way possible and by all means necessary,” the Cabinet Secretary said at a meeting with all county commanders and police bosses from across the country.
“This is not a banana country. We have institutions. We have the IEBC, National Police Service. You can’t wake up one morning and take people to the polling station and give them your own assignments to look after your interests. You look after your interests through the IEBC. The protection of the ballot is our responsibility and IEBC and we have not asked for any assistance,” Dr Matiang’i stated.
While Dr Matiang’i did not mention either the opposition or its plan by name, Nasa has bristled at his remarks as they see the CS to be targeting them.
ODM chairman John Mbadi said Dr Matiang’i had gone overboard with his statements and “he should be advised that he is not in charge of elections”.
He said on Election Day, the police will act under the instructions of the IEBC’s officers. “It is for the IEBC to determine based on the law of the land,” noted Mr Mbadi.
He said the official communication from the IEBC was that they should have two agents per party.
This is also in line with the Elections Act, which states in Section 30 that a political party may appoint one agent for its candidates and that where it does not, a candidate may then appoint an agent of their choice.
Nasa’s adopt-a-polling station policy is to have five agents. Mr Mbadi said more agents are needed because sometimes, the agents may not share allegiances to all the candidates of coalition parties.
Nasa has candidates from its affiliate parties contesting against each other in 195 areas, some of them high-octane races such as the Mombasa, Kakamega and Bungoma gubernatorial seats.
“Apart from agents, we’ll have people to track those who have voted and those who have not so there will obviously be more people at the polling stations than the agents,” said Mr Mbadi.
He said the technical team had been tasked to handle the meetings with the IEBC where these issues will be thrashed out.
The opposition has been keen to ensure the electoral system works as designed, they see that as the key to ensuring there is no rigging, which they have seen as the biggest hurdle in their way to taking power.
Mr Orengo co-chaired the parliamentary committee that essentially designed the current system — except the complementary manual system — and ushered out the team led by Ahmed Issack Hassan.
When he was criticised for appearing to have ceded too much ground to Jubilee in the negotiations last year, Mr Orengo said they had missed the point.
“The approach the Cord (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy) team had in the negotiations during the proceedings of the committee was under the mantra and refrain, ‘It is the electoral system, stupid.’
Cord’s pathway to electoral victory has been safeguarded now and protected by a revolutionary change that of the election laws that constitutes both a quantitative and qualitative leap in the electoral system,” he wrote, in reference to the coalition that has since been dissolved to form Nasa.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati was not immediately available for comment but he has previously warned the opposition alliance against deploying its volunteers at polling centres on election day, saying only accredited persons will be allowed at the halls.
Jubilee’s Secretary-General Raphael Tuju sought to downplay the significance of Nasa’s ‘vote-protection strategy’ saying: “Let them do whatever they want. We are not in the business of copying them. Even if they want to give birth to a polling station and subsequently adopt it, we have no qualms with it,” he said.
The opposition started off its recruitment in Vihiga, the political backyard of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, one of its principals.
Speaking after addressing the agents at Keveye on Saturday, Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi said 2,740 agents had been recruited and prepared to guard the opposition’s votes in Vihiga County. The county is divided into 548 polling stations.
Mr Agoi, who is coordinating Nasa activities in the county, said the agents have been trained and are ready to discharge their mandate.
This is part of a scheme by the opposition alliance to post agents in all the polling stations in the country.
“The agents have been prepared and are ready for the work ahead of them. We will have five agents taking care of Nasa votes in a polling station,” said Mr Agoi.
In Kisumu on Saturday, Mr Orengo repeated the claim by Nasa that the Executive is trying to interfere with the elections, something he described as “extremely dangerous”.
“There is a pattern emerging that is very dangerous. A situation where the executive is trying to play a role which we have fought for in the past to try and make sure the role of the executive is limited in the conduct of elections.”
Speaking separately, Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga, who is spearheading Nasa’s adopt-a-polling station in the region, asked Dr Matiang’i to keep off opposition affairs.
“He has proved to be partisan by campaigning for Jubilee in Kisii which is actually our stronghold. If he wants to be part of us, let him tell us so that we give him a role to adopt some stations,” Ms Odinga said.
She said the process will not in any way affect voting but will help ensure high voter turnout and protection of votes.
Mr Orengo said: “We are not planning for a re-run. We want to win first round. All indications are that if voters are allowed to vote freely, we are sure of victory because we are ready to protect our votes.”
Additional reporting by Derrick Luvega
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