Tensions are high in Kenya’s chaotic primary season as the ruling Jubilee party and the opposition run into logistical issues and allegations of irregularities.
The Jubilee planned to hold party primaries in all of Kenya’s 47 counties Friday and Monday. But of the 21 scheduled for Friday, three were postponed.
Confusion and accusations then derailed voting in nine more counties, such as Uasin Gishu, home to Deputy President William Ruto.
The governor, Jackson Mandago, said party elections will not take place in Uasin Gishu.
“We as aspirants and the people of this county have all agreed that all the polling stations have not received enough voting papers,” he said. “Now we have decided the vote will not go on.”
Several hundred miles away in the already tense Rift Valley region, the Jubilee party secretary general, Raphael Tuju, warned leaders against such statements.
“Any aspirant who have made that announcement, that’s their own announcement,” he said. “It’s not the announcement of the party headquarters, and if they’ve called it off, they have called their own process off. Our process is continuing, and even if it’s 20 people who turn up, if we did not call it off, we will count those 20 votes and proceed.”
Political competitors are complaining of a lack voting materials, favoritism and rigging, including reports of pre-marked ballots. There is also disagreement over which voter register — that of the party or that of the national electoral commission — to use during the process.
Jubilee party officials offered a clarification Friday. They said they expect no more than 50 percent voter turnout during a primary, hence the provision of less ballot materials.
The Jubilee party is a young one. It was formed last year in a merger of 12 parties to consolidate support behind President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy.
Opposition parties are facing logistical challenges of their own.
The largest party, the Orange Democratic Movement, had to reschedule primaries in some constituencies due to late-arriving or incomplete ballot materials. ODM also canceled the results of the governorship primary in Busia county amid allegations of rigging.
Stakes are high in the primaries. In an opposition or a ruling party stronghold, securing the party’s nomination for certain posts can be an almost-certain ticket for victory.
President Kenyatta on Thursday warned against violence. “A culture of hooliganism during the electoral process must not and will not be allowed to gain currency and acceptance.”
All party primaries are expected to conclude next week. Kenya holds presidential, parliamentary, governorship and local elections in August.