Update–follow local coverage at West FM here. With some exceptions, voting seems to have proceeded peacefully.
Monday’s by-election in Ikolomani, Western Province, will be a key test for both the election authorities and for law enforcement, as well as for future political stature in Western heading into the 2012 campaign.
Security officers have been directed to deal firmly with reported cases of bribery and voter intimidation as voters in Ikolomani pick their new MP on Monday.
The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) said voters in the constituency should be left to pick their next MP freely.
Commissioner Hamara Ibrahim Aden said it would be up to officers on the ground to ensure those involved in violence and voter bribery were arrested.
There will be two police officers deployed at each polling station during voting.
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ODM and New Ford Kenya have been involved in intense campaigns for the Ikolomani seat.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi pitched camp at the constituency to ensure the ODM candidate emerged the winner.
Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa and Housing minister Soita Shitanda have been pushing for voters to re-elect Dr Khalwale.
A victory for the ODM candidate will be a big boost to Mr Mudavadi, who is trying to ward off competition from the Saboti MP for the region’s political supremacy.
Mr Wamalwa, who has declared he will vie for the presidency in the next general election, hopes to consolidate support in the region should Dr Khalwale be re-elected to complete his term.
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Presiding officers in Ikolomani have been equipped with laptops and mobile phones to transmit the results from respective polling stations after completing the tallying process.
Commissioner Aden said the officials had been trained on the use of the gadgets and no delays were expected in release of the results.
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Dr Boni Khalwale was first elected to Parliament on a Narc ticket in 2002 and went in for a second term in 2007 on New Ford Kenya ticket.
But his term was cut short after the High Court nullified his election citing irregularities in the tallying of votes.
The petition was filed by Mr Shinali, who in the previous election, narrowly lost to Dr Khalwale.
In the meantime, the other big showdown, for the Kamukunji seat in Nairobi, has instead turned into a battle between the courts and the electoral commission. The IIEC acted wisely, in my opinion, in postponing the election to recognize a High Court injunction, although taking great umbrage at what the commission sees as interference with their prerogatives and in the face of encouragement from elected officials and party leaders to go ahead in spite of the court.
On Friday High Court judge Daniel Musinga temporarily halted the by-election scheduled for tomorrow until a petition filed by an aggrieved aspirant is heard and determined.
The applicant, Paul Waweru Mwangi of the National Vision Party challenged the legality of nominations conducted by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the returning officer Joseph Masindet on April 27 and 28.
Mr Mwangi complained that his nomination papers were rejected by the returning officer.
In his ruling Justice Musinga said the IIEC violated the aspirant’s constitutional right to be a candidate in the by-election.