19 May 2017

Kenya: Murang'a Locals Await Ruling As Governor Warns of Its Effect

Nearly a month after casting their ballot in highly charged Jubilee Party primaries, voters in Murang'a are holding their breath.

They are waiting to know who between the incumbent Governor Mwangi wa Iria and his rival, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, will get the nod to fly the ruling party's flag in the August 8 General Election.

As in other Jubilee strongholds, victory for either of the two candidates in the primaries will give the winner a head start in the race to be the county's governor in second term of devolution.

RESULTS CONTESTED

This, among other factors, is what makes the duel a high octane one.

Although they turned out in large numbers to vote in the Jubilee nominations of April 21, the outcome of the primaries, in which the incumbent was declared the winner, is still a subject of debate after Mr Kamau challenged the result at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.

During the nominations, Mr wa Iria garnered 205,941 votes against Mr Kamau's 118,274.

But it is these figures that are at the heart of the row raging before the tribunal.

REQUEST GRANTED

In his appeal, Mr Kamau says the Jubilee register had only 119,838 voters.

He is urging the tribunal to nullify the results and order fresh primary on the ground that the party did not use the correct register for the exercise.

The MP lost his petition to the Jubilee Party Appeals Board.

Early in the week however, Mr Kamau got a reprieve when he obtained orders by the tribunal directing Jubilee not to forward Mr wa Iria's name to Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as the party's gubernatorial candidate pending the determination of the appeal.

VOTERS' REGISTER

However, Mr Wa Iria has risen to the challenge, saying that should the appeal be allowed, it will effectively affect all positions that Jubilee filled through the disputed nominations.

The governor insists that the correct register was used in the primaries and, therefore, the appeal should be dismissed.

"The party itself has submitted on oath the register that was used to conduct nominations in Murang'a County with 514,725 members, and which all aspirants had been notified about," Governor wa Iria argues in his replying affidavit.

"The register applied not just to the gubernatorial position but all other elective positions, including for the Woman Representative and Senator."

He states that the prayer on the voters register was not part of the complaints in the original petition to the Jubilee appeals board.

"It is also strange that during the first nomination held on April 21, 2017 before it was cancelled by the party due to logistical challenges and a repeat ordered for 26th April, 2017, the same register was used, yet the Mr Kamau never raised any complaint with the party or at all," the governor notes.

ELECTION MALPRACTICE

He added that not even Mr Kamau's agents raised an issue with the register.

The governor also accuses Mr Kamau of flouting the tribunal's rules by not swearing an affidavit to support his case.

The affidavit calling for cancellation of the results is sworn by Mr Maina Gatundu, a complainant.

Mr Kamau also alleges widespread malpractices in the primaries, including ballot stuffing and voter bribery.

To this, Mr wa Iria responded: "I attained in excess of 87,274 votes to that of Jamleck Kamau and it has not been shown that the alleged malpractices would have had the effect of altering the will of the people or the final outcome of the nominations exercise.

"The register used by the party applied to all elective positions within Murang'a and the voting pattern for the gubernatorial position also mirrors that of the Woman Representative as shown by the party."

TRIBUNAL'S VERDICT

Mr wa Iria further claims that Mr Kamau's appeal was filed outside the stipulated time.

The tribunal is set to issue a ruling tomorrow afternoon.

But it is not clear whether that will bring the curtain down on the dispute and allow voters in Murang'a, one of the counties with the highest votes in the country, to know who their Jubilee flag-bearer in the August polls will be.

This is because any of the parties dissatisfied with the tribunal's verdict could still rush to the High Court for redress, dragging the matter further.

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