A number of candidates for the upcoming Juja by-elections have called on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to postpone the by-elections citing challenges in conducting campaigns.
Led by John Njoroge Mburu of People’s Party of Kenya (PPK), they threatened to take IEBC to court if they failed to postpone the byelections.
They said it has been difficult to sell themselves and their vision to the electorate owing to challenges emanating from the current restrictions on gatherings.
They said if IEBC allows the by-elections to continue, it will disadvantage them and the voter.
They want the voters to be given enough time to scrutinize the candidates as they sell their policies and manifesto.
Njoroge said by-elections should be conducted once the government is convinced that the country’s Covid-19 cases have gone down and is able to open the country for campaigns.
“We cannot continue like this. Either IEBC postpones the May 18 by elections or we seek legal redress. It is very difficult for us to conduct campaigns because we have been limited on avenues to reach the electorate,” said Njoroge.
He added that they have been limited to online campaigns and use of short messages, getting very few feedbacks from the electorate
“The electorate needs to have a personal touch with the candidate so as to make an informed decision. How can they reach us? It has become difficult for us in the small parties,” said Mburu.
James Kariuki, an independent candidate said campaigning online has been a challenge as most of the electorate lack smartphones, bundles and have other priorities due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Why the hurry to get a new MP. We have had one for eight years, who passed on in February and still Juja residents continue to face the same problems as before. They don’t have to hurry to get a new MP. In fact, they can wait till 2022 so that the elections can be done together with the general elections.
This by-election will not be free and fair because how do you tell people to elect leaders who they have only seen on social media. Personal touch is important for you to sell your manifesto. It will disadvantage those from small parties and those entering the scene for the first time,” said Kariuki.
Dr. Joseph Gichui Kariuki said the coronavirus pandemic has changed the future of campaigns disclosing that he has been forced to campaign on Facebook groups and other social media platforms.
“There is no other way. People have to become innovative and find ways of reaching the voters. This is now the future of campaigns during this pandemic shows online usage,” he said.
The seat that became vacant following the death of MP Francis Waititu Wakapee has attracted more than 10 candidates. Observers view it as a contest between President Uhuru Kenyatta led Jubilee Party candidate Susan Njeri, who is Wakepee’s widow and Moses Kuria’s led People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) candidate George Koimburi.
By Muoki Charles