Kenyans are today (Thursday) anxiously awaiting the results of the first parliamentary election since the controversial December 27th election. The results of five contested seats would determine which of the two parties in the coalition government would hold the majority in Kenya’s parliament. President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) fiercely contested the election seen as a test of popularity of the two parties after last year’s disputed general elections.
Heavily armed police reportedly patrolled polling stations to prevent possible trouble. Some political analysts believe the ODM stands a better chance of winning the vote since those seats are perceived to be in ODM strongholds. Paul Mbatia is a Kenyan political science professor at the University of Nairobi. From the capital, Nairobi he tells reporter Peter Clottey that there was no reported violence during the vote.
“Voting went on well, and people are still waiting at the polling stations for the results to be announced. So, that is true that the results would be announced today (Thursday), and Kenyans are eagerly waiting to hear who wins in this different bi-election in four different constituencies,” Mbatia noted.
He said some Kenyans were not overly enthused with Wednesday’s vote.
“I can tell you that bi-elections in Kenya are not very popular. This is not the best time for any by-election. Kenyans have just gone through the emotions of the 2007 election that was accompanied by violence. So, taking Kenyans back to election process is not something that is very exciting this time. One would expect that the turn out would not be high, and most people were quite disappointed given the debacle that followed the 2007 election to a point where some were saying that “whether you vote or not it doesn’t seem to change anything”. Therefore, one would think anticipate low turnout and maybe apathy towards voting in Kenya,” he said.
Mbatia said President Kibaki’s PNU party and Prime Minister Odinga’s ODM both contested the vote to show supremacy in Kenya’s parliament.
“Bear in mind that the country is divided into two. On the one hand we have the ODM political party, which going by the numbers of parliamentarians that won last year, they still have the majority in parliament. Most of the by-election that are being done are being done in areas were ODM had won. So, ODM is fighting very hard to in a way retain its supremacy and to actually make a point that ODM is still popular. On the other hand the PNU is struggling very hard, had invested a lot of time and mobilized political giants to make sure that at least they win if not in all at least in one of the constituencies, which would be an indicator that they have beaten ODM in terms of popularity, and therefore you can see the swords are drawn, and the campaign was quite hot for these political parties,” Mbatia pointed out.
He said although both parties fiercely contested the election, it remains to be seen who would emerge the winner.
“Now, to ask who is likely to win, that to some extent was not clear in all the constituencies it was just like fifty-fifty and we wait for the results to determine that,” he said.
Mbatia said there was no reported incidence of violence during Wednesday’s vote.
“I have not heard of any serious incidence of violence. But one could also just recall that Kenyans are quite sober. We can vividly recall what happened at the post election violence of 2007 and learn from that. Surely, most people do not want to see or to participate in any violence. Added to that, the police might have been mobilized, these were only by-elections in four constituencies, and therefore, the police would have been able to provide adequate security to ensure that there was calm during the voting,” Mbatia said.