RACE AGAINST TIME

Big guns to scramble for 4.5m new voters ahead of final IEBC listing

The poll agency lays ground of month-long registration in Kenya and in new seven foreign countries

In Summary
  • President Uhuru and Raila allies are expected to step out to push their supporters to turnout and register in en masse to deal with voter apathy fears.
  • Anxiety has rocked political formations in the 2022 race as political party functionaries urge IEBC to ensure all eligible voters to participate.
Narok North election coordinator John Taiswa and other IEBC officials during voter registration in Narok town.
Narok North election coordinator John Taiswa and other IEBC officials during voter registration in Narok town.
Image: FILE

Big political players will from next week shift their focus to mobilising at least 4.5 million unlisted Kenyans to turn up and register as voters.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is set to announce the second and final phase of mass voter registration next week.

According to sources, the exercise is tentatively slated for January 17 to February 17.

The final push for voter registration would set the stage for a fresh scramble for new  millions of potential voters.

The significant number of unregistered voters is tipped to shape the presidential contest that is seen as a two-horse race between ODM boss Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

“We urge all eligible citizens who are yet to be registered as voters to turn up at our registration centres for enrolment,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila allies are expected to step out to push their supporters to turnout and register in en masse to deal with voter apathy fears.

Raila, during a stopover in Nakuru on Wednesday, asked his supporters to come out in large numbers and register for the August 9 General Election.

“If you want to be a true ‘Jeshi la Baba’ (Soldiers of Raila), you must be armed with a gun (National ID) and a bullet (voter’s card).”

“I, therefore, call upon those who have not registered to come out so that they get listed. This will be so that as your commander when I say ‘fire’, you will be ready,” the former Prime Minister said.

Since Wednesday, the IEBC has been conducting a planning meeting in readiness for the second and final phase of the enhanced continuous voter registration.

The Chebukati-led commission says it will conduct the listing of Kenyans in seven new foreign countries to add to South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi whose residents voted in 2017.

Kenyans in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, South Sudan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Germany would thus get an opportunity to take part in the August 9 vote.

“IEBC has undertaken mapping and stakeholder engagement for the seven new countries where it shall conduct registration as part of progressive realisation of the right to vote for citizens living outside the country,” the agency said.

Anxiety has rocked political formations in the 2022 race as political party functionaries urge IEBC to ensure all eligible voters to participate.

Among the terms by ODM and UDA luminaries are that the IEBC provides adequate time so that more Kenyans register as voters.

Parties want the IEBC to conduct the mass listing for at least two months with ODM saying every polling centre be furnished with kits.

ODM political affairs secretary Opiyo Wandayi said, “We want those kits to be taken to every polling station. At least a functioning kit in every polling station for at least two months," the Ugunja MP said.

“Enlisting as a voter is such a crucial exercise that cannot be just left to potential voters, or political parties or candidates or aspirants.”

“It is something that the government must facilitate, of course, through the IEBC. It is a cardinal responsibility of government to ensure Kenyans are registered as voters,” he added. 

Wandayi said the commission should not wait until the last minute to claim they have no cash to conduct the mass listing. 

“If they want money, the time is now for them to come to Parliament and present their proposals. Let them tell us how much—broken down in numbers— they need to register all eligible voters.”

IEBC was allocated Sh1.2 billion for voter registration out of the Sh4 billion it requested from the exchequer.

Mwala MP Vincent Musau aka Kawaya, a UDA insider, said the IEBC should not be in a hurry to cut off the registration of voters as there were many people who missed out in the last round.

“If there is room for listing and resources—which most government officers waste—we want them used to give another chance to those who did not register last time,” Musau said.

He held that the new numbers remain crucial, especially for the William Ruto-backed 'hustler movement'.

“As UDA, we have a new block of voters called the hustlers, the majority being young people who care less about tribes…a number of them missed last time and we want them catered to.”

Even as the commission gears up, voter apathy that stalked the first round of listing in November remains a concern.

“Remember the Uhuru-Raila contest. We almost went for a rerun considering the margin of about 8,000 to 11,000 votes. So for us, every vote out there matters,” Musau added.

The IEBC reported that 1,519,294 new voters were recorded, being 25 per cent of the targeted six million new voters.

The commission further revealed that it listed only 180,938 new voters in the continuous voter registration that the commission launched on October 15, 2018.

The commission exuded confidence of listing more voters this time, part of the strategy being the expanded listing of Kenyans in the diaspora.

Bigwigs keen on using the new voters to shore up their presidential bids after IEBC’s last missed targets are likely to benefit from the new vote blocs.

Uhuru’s Mt Kenya backyard led the pack of worst-performing regions having recorded 224,499 new voters in the last mass voter registration.

Among the highest was Nairobi which registered 152,920 voters, Nakuru which had 62,064; at least 57,816 for Kakamega, and 56,932 for the case of Kisii.

Tana River, Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, and Lamu counties had the lowest numbers of newly registered voters in a drive that also saw 421,057 apply for transfer to new polling stations.