E-VOTING IN COVID ERA

Proposed electronic voting elicits mixed reactions in Msambweni

The by-election was set for June 25 but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Summary
  • Kagwe said IEBC should come up with innovative ways to conduct by-elections.
  • ODM’s Nicholas Zani said he was ready for the by-election so long as it was credible.
ODM's Nicholas Zani
BRING IT ON: ODM's Nicholas Zani
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Potential aspirants for the Msambweni parliamentary seat in Kwale have expressed misgivings about the proposed use of electronic voting for the by-election.

 
 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on Thursday said although gatherings of any nature were still not allowed in the country, this should not prevent by-elections from being conducted.

He said the electoral body, IEBC, should come up with innovative ways to conduct the by-elections "when the appropriate time comes".

"Electronic voting may be adopted," said Kagwe.

However, some of the possible candidates for the Msambweni MP seat on Saturday said although it was important that Msambweni residents get a representative in Parliament, their lives were more important.

ODM’s Nicholas Zani said he was ready for the by-election so long as it was credible.

He said electronic voting may still involve physical contact at some point.

“We also still remember our experience with ‘vifaranga vya kompyuta’,” he told the Star on phone.

 
 
 

He was referring to Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s lamentation in 2017 that some of the political leaders were fraudulently ‘elected’.

Zani said if worship places and other restrictions have been relaxed with guidelines provided to ensure there is no spread of coronavirus, then the same can be done for by-elections.

“However, if we get to a point where it is highly risky, then people’s lives are more important than a by-election or representation. Who are you going to represent if people are dead? Just shelve the polls for now,” Zani said.

Sharlet Mariam
ASPIRANT: Sharlet Mariam
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Another possible ODM candidate Sharlet Mariam said Covid-19 is real and should be taken seriously.

She said there is no need to rush to the by-election if it is still not safe out there.

“Corona is real. Everything has its own time. Let us be patient,” Mariam said.

She said being elected MP is not worth risking the lives of Msambweni residents.

She said even when guidelines are put in place for by-elections, politicians will still break the rules just to reach as many people as possible.

“Politics is sweet. Politicians will be tempted to make people gather so they can take advantage and sell their agendas,” she said.

Mariam said it was important for Kwale to flatten the curve before taking any drastic action.

“Let us respect this time of corona. Let us not risk people’s lives especially at the grassroots where there are many vulnerable people like the elderly,” she said.

Charles Bilal, a political scientist, said voting electronically would disenfranchise many voters.

He said for electronic voting to be successful, the IEBC needed to put in place very many measures to ensure the integrity of the by-elections.

He said should IEBC go for electronic voting, many illiterate people in Msambweni will be left out.

“As a political scientist, I believe in fairness and giving people opportunities to exercise their rights, including their right to vote,” said Bilali, who hopes to vie for the seat as an independent candidate.

He said although he would be happy to participate in the by-election electronically, there are still grey areas that he feels will be exploited by some candidates who would do anything to win.

However, he said it was unfair for Msambweni residents not to be represented in Parliament for four months now.

“Msambweni cannot get CDF because we have no MP right now,” Bilal said.

The by-elections were set for June 25 but were later postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kwale Finance executive Bakari Sebe, who has also cast his eyes on the seat, said he would rather wait for the pandemic to be addressed before the by-elections.

“I don’t want to endanger the lives of the people I want to represent,” Sebe said.

He said although he is ready for the by-elections, there are more important things to consider than politics.

“The health of our people is paramount. We cannot play with the lives of our people,” he said.

Former Gombato MCA Omar Boga said Msambweni has gone almost five months without being represented.

Some important things are being passed in Parliament without input of Msambweni, which is not fair, he said.

He said the IEBC should stop the suffering of Msambweni residents and come up with innovative ways through which the by-election can be conducted.

“Some countries have conducted electronic voting. We are in a digital world. Why can’t we do it here in Kenya?" Boga said.

“We are ready for the by-elections. We are just waiting for the whistle.” 

Muhammad Bujra, who hopes to vie for the seat on an independent ticket, said he was ready for the by-election.

He said the Covid-19 is here to stay and it will be foolhardy for anyone to think it will disappear.

“We cannot wait for corona to end. We should just get on with our lives and business, including the business of having the people of Msambweni represented in Parliament,” Bujra said.

He however said the IEBC needed to assure the candidates and the people of Msambweni that there will be no ‘vifaranga vya kompyuta’.

Immediate former Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori died on March 9 necessitating the by-election.

Edited by Henry Makori