Kenya’s presidential race in overdrive as electoral commission seeks 4 million more voters

Isaack Hassan, Chairperson of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)

Isaack Hassan, Chairperson of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)

The race for Kenya’s top seat is on, with the ruling Jubilee and opposition CORD seeking to win hearts and minds of the more than 4 million unregistered voters.

The country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) aims to have a mass voter registration drive.
The registration exercise kicked off Monday across Kenya and it is expected to pick up momentum through March 15.
. “We are targeting at least four million unregistered voters of the eight million possible ones,” IEBC CEO, Ezra Chiloba said Monday.

Local political observers say both Jubilee and CORD have already held meetings over strategies to win over potential voters, and on how to guarantee victory not only in the state house but also in the next parliament.

Opposition leaders have begun by challenging governors elected under their party ticket to keep pushing for higher voter turnout in a bid to ensure they maintain their majority. CORD won 24 out of the possible 47 seats in the last general elections.

The governors have been asked to dedicate cash in mobilising the constituencies’ youth to comb through villages and go door to door to ensure that every eligible Kenyan registers as a voter before the exercise ends.

CORD leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, say they will seek audience with the polls team over the matter.

They have also demanded that the 30-day registration period be extended by a month. The 30 day long voter registration exercise aims to list new voters and also enable those who wish to transfer to a different station to do so while also allowing older voters to verify their status.

According to IEBC Chairperson Isaack Hassan, over 5,500 biometric voter registration kits have been dispatched to the 1,450 wards across the country.

“We are targeting to register four million voters. We have distributed the Biometric Voter Registration kits according to the population,” he said.
The exercise however, is already facing challenges including delays; On Monday, there were reports of tardiness in Mandera East due to hitches in configuration of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits. Voter registration centers remained deserted in the morning as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission staff were late to report to work.

Kenya’s 2017 general election is expected to be highly competitive but the opposition CORD, according to analysts is bound to have an upper hand in gaining new voters.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, traversed western Kenya and parts of Nyanza recently in an effort to drum up support for the ruling Jubilee Coalition.

Mr. Kenyatta, son of the country’s first president, will be running for his second term next year. After winning a fiercely contested election in 2013, President Kenyatta has encountered numerous hurdles including problems with the International Criminal Court over his alleged role in the post-election violence.

His presidency has also been bogged by rampant corruption in government circles and multiple deadly terror attacks by the Somali-based jihad group Al-Shabaab.

Raila Odinga, the country’s former premier has hinted he will run on CORD’s ticket. He came in second in the last election.