Governor Awiti addressing the Lake Region Health Investment Conference held last week.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has adopted the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) polling stations in the party primaries in Homa Bay County. This was resolved during aspirants meeting presided over by party’s National Elections Board secretary Bob Arunga at Homa Bay hotel ahead of April 19 when the party will conduct its primaries for flag bearers for Homa Bay and Migori counties.
“We have agreed to use all the IEBC gazetted polling stations across the county as demanded by aspirants who see it as the better option to prevent disenfranchising voters who may not travel far to cast their ballot,” said Arunga.
The aspirants who included gubernatorial aspirants Governor Awiti, Oyugi Magwanga and Cosmas Kanyadudi, Senatorial aspirants Moses Kajwang’ and Fred Rabongo, parliamentary aspirants Caroli Omondi (Suba) and Judy Kamaria (Mbita) argued that doing so will give many people an opportunity to vote.
But what remains unanswered is the costs involve to cover the increased number of polling stations after ODM NEB dropped its earlier plan to merge polling stations to manageable levels. However a majority of aspirants had shown their readiness and commitment to incur more expenses to guarantee free and fair process. “I believe the 99 per cent of Homa Bay county residents are ODM members hence it is prudent if the party conducts the exercise at the IEBC polling stations,” said Mr Awiti.
Messrs Kajwang’ and Rabongo argued that conducting the nominations at the polling stations will help to prevent chaos. “We don’t want a situation where voters travel long distances in order to participate in the nomination. This will prevent violence as only registered voters of a given area will converge to vote. It will also influence higher voter turnout,” said Mr Kajwang’.
Explaining why polling stations were not merged, Dr Arunga said, “The board has plans of merging polling stations in all counties but the people of Homa Bay County have put a strong opposing view to this and have requested the use of all IEBC polling stations. We have complied to enable peace prevail during the exercise”.
He however reaffirmed that the board will not favour any aspirant regardless of his position and influence as that will be tantamount to giving the electorate a contempt card citing Suba MP John Mbadi who is the party’s national chairman and is facing off with Mr Omondi close ally of Raila Odinga for Suba and cited his brother former Raila aide and ambassador to Egypt Dave Arunga who is contesting for Karachuonyo constituency.
On violence, Dr Arunga warned that whoever is involved either before or during nominations should be ready to face disqualification. “Disqualification is the remedy we have put in place against anybody who will cause chaos during the nomination. We need peace. ODM will not allow anybody to clinch the ticket through violence,” he added.
Mr Mbadi called on the board to reshuffle the nomination officials so that they don’t serve in their home electoral areas to prevent conflict of interest. “We would not want nomination officials who reside in a given constituency to conduct the exercise in the same constituency as this may make them bias,” said Mr Mbadi.
Messrs Kanyadudi and Magwanga called on the board to vet officials who will sit in the constituency election panel before they are appointed to avoid any form of compromise and mismanagement. “We are likely to end up with goons managing nomination process in the constituencies if the board fails to vet them well,” said Mr Magwanga.
On his part, Governor Awiti told Homa Bay residents to conduct themselves with decorum to be a role model to other counties. “Homa Bay is rated the pace setter in ODM affairs. Let us conduct ourselves with in the required ethics”.
The writer is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press based in Homa Bay County