ODM leader Raila Odinga Thursday said there should be no rigging in the February 12 Homa Bay senatorial by-election.
Campaigning for the party’s candidate, Mr Moses Kajwang’, Mr Odinga said; “Any attempt to rig the election will not be allowed.”
Some ODM leaders have demanded that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission director of voter registration, Ms Immaculate Kassait, be recalled from the county.
They questioned her neutrality in the by-election after claiming that she had been driven from a Homa Bay hotel in a vehicle belonging to MP James Rege, who is campaigning for Mr Philip Okundi, the Maendeleo Democratic Party candidate.
The Nation could not reach Ms Kassait for a comment but the electoral commission coordinator for Central Nyanza region, Mr Rasi Masoud, dismissed rigging allegations as mere politicking.
“All those are pure politics, which we as a commission will not respond to,” he said.
Mr Rege also dismissed the allegations.
Conspiracy to rig
Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ and Homa Bay town MP Peter Kaluma, also alleged that the commission was conspiring to rig the by-election.
Mr Kajwang’ said the party had received reports that the list of the presiding officers and their deputies that were supposed to officiate the by-election have been drawn by individuals interested in the by-election.
Mr Kaluma, who supports Mr Kajwang’s candidature, said the electoral commission must remove Ms Kassait if it is committed to a free and fair by election.
Mr Kajwang’ also demanded that commission publishes the names of all presiding officers and their deputies for auditing.
Responding to the allegations, electoral commission chairman Isaack Hassan assured the ODM leaders that he had dispatched adequate officials to Homa Bay with strict instructions to ensure that the by-election was free and fair.
He challenged those making the claims during campaign rallies to submit evidence to the electoral commission.
“If there is any evidence of vote rigging, let them tell us and action will be taken. All election officials have taken oath of impartiality and anyone of them found acting contrary will be individually responsible for the offence,” he said.
“I can assure them that I have sent commissioners to every constituency in Homa Bay to oversee the by-election and ensure there is no rigging. There will be no rigging or influencing of the outcome of the by-elections,” he said through telephone.
Interestingly, Mr Odinga Thursday said that he had no problem with Mr Okundi’s candidature.
“I was even his best man during the wedding to his second wife. I am, however, disappointed that he turned against me,” he said.
Mr Okundi is one of the ODM aspirants who decamped after Mr Kajwang’ was given a direct nomination by the party’s elections board. Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, regarded as Mr Odinga’s political rival, has thrown his weight behind Mr Okundi.
MARRED BY VIOLENCE
The campaigns for the by-election to be held next Thursday have been marred by violence, creating tension between supporters of rival candidates.
Suba MP John Mbadi said that opposition MPs and county assembly members had been enlisted to support ODM agents at polling stations, constituency and county tallying centres on polling day.
During a campaign rally at the Ndhiwa Central Square, area MP Agostino Neto was heckled when he attempted to address the gathering.
Wananchi at the rally challenged him to declare which candidate he was supporting.
Earlier, Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo was challenged to declare her stand following her failure to join Mr Kajwang’s campaign.
Mr Odinga warned rebel ODM MPs that they would be punished for disloyalty to the party.
“This election is not just about Moses Kajwang’’ but our position as ODM come 2017 general elections,” said Mr Odinga at a campaign rally.
He said ‘red cards’ would be given to those who had been warned but failed to heed calls to toe the party line.
“I have come here to personally warn them. Some of these people who are hitting us are only scoring in their own goal and we will not let that happen in this election,” he said.
Mr Odinga said he was confident that Mr Kajwang’ would win the by-election.
Mr Kajwang’s nomination caused a falling-out in the party, prompting some of the aspirants to defect to other parties allied to ODM.