Mind games: The Raila, Ruto power balance

Azimio, Kenya Kwanza leaders in mind games.

Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga’s political camps yesterday played high-level mind games in a bid to energise their bases while both claiming victory in the Tuesday presidential polls, ahead of the long-awaited official announcement of the results.

The Azimio coalition, led by Mr Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua, called all its newly elected MPs and governors from across the country to a meeting in Nairobi, in what appeared to be a show of strength and might for the party.

The coalition argued that it had won a majority of seats both in Parliament and in the counties, terming it an indication of its numerical strength, which it said would also translate to victory in the yet-to-be-announced presidential race.

DP Ruto’s running mate, Rigathi Gachagua, in a pointed tweet that appeared to be an apparent reaction to the Azimio meeting, asked supporters of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance to await the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official announcement, claiming that their own tally showed the alliance had won the presidential race.

“All is well, relax good people. Don’t be drawn into sideshows. We have no time for their usual drama. Our business right now is verification of forms 34A and 34B at the national tallying centre,” Mr Gachagua tweeted, before accusing the Azimio coalition of delaying the ongoing vote tallying at the Bomas of Kenya.

“If the pace is maintained and they (Azimio) are restrained from causing further unnecessary delays, the winner of the presidential vote should be announced before the end of tomorrow, Sunday,” he said.

“You are encouraged to visit the IEBC portal and, with a simple calculator, add the numbers to know the winner such that the announcement by the national returning officer will be a mere formality. Mbele iko sawa,” added Mr Gachagua.

Heightened anxiety

The posturing only served to heighten anxiety among Kenyans who have been awaiting the official announcement of the presidential results since Tuesday.

By press time, the IEBC had tallied less than 200 out of a total 291 forms 34B, which form the basis of announcing the presidential race winner.

Politicians allied to Azimio la Umoja coalition inside IEBC Tallying centre at the Bomas of Kenya on August 13, 2022./Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

The IEBC verified results from 96 constituencies last evening showed Mr Ruto had 2.88 million votes against Mr Odinga’s 2.75 million.

Present at the Azimio coalition meeting held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre were Ms Karua, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ODM chairman John Mbadi, Mombasa governor and ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya.

DP Ruto, in one of only a few tweets he has sent out since the August 9 polls, steered clear of the debate as to who had won the election.

“Congratulations to all election winners. In particular, we celebrate the many women who have broken barriers to climb the political ladder. Best wishes as you embark on your new responsibilities. Hustlers are counting on you,” DP Ruto tweeted.

At the hurriedly arranged KICC meeting, speakers who included Ms Karua and Mr Musyoka also argued that a tally of votes submitted to the IEBC portal indicated that they were ahead of their competitors.

“We have tallied the presidential results, but we do not have the powers to announce ourselves. The forms were on the portal and the true copies can be tallied. And we know where we are. And we know, if we had the power, we would have called it for ourselves. But we will wait for that announcement,” Ms Karua said.

“But please be upbeat and know that Kenyans did give us the opportunity to steer the nation and we are waiting for the official seal of approval. We now have a lot of work to do, to ensure that the people we serve get the benefits of the taxes that they pay,” Ms Karua said.

The Narc-Kenya party leader also argued that going by the number of seats that the coalition has won in the National Assembly and that of governors, according to results released by IEBC, an Azimio win was inevitable.

“I was looking at the list of MPs and we are just short of 180 when you combine. We have 24 governors at the moment. If you add Mombasa and Kakamega whose by-election is coming later, you will see that we have strength around the country. So even without anybody telling you the numbers, with those numbers that we already have of MPs and governors, there is no way that the tally can be against us,” Ms Karua said.

Mr Musyoka, on the other hand, asked Kenyans to remain peaceful as they wait for the official announcement of the results by the IEBC. He also asked the commission to remain impartial.

“We want to urge the IEBC to do the right and legitimate thing. I know from where I stand that this country will remain peaceful after this announcement. I want to congratulate Kenyans for remaining solid and let us all remember that we are still all Kenyans.”

Yesterday’s meeting was the culmination of a series of preparations that have been going on at the KICC, where the Azimio coalition has already set up its media centre as it waits for the announcement by IEBC.

Besides the media centre, the coalition has also set up a VIP holding room where leaders and officials allied to the coalition have been holding meetings in the last couple of days. Both centres have been set up at the Tsavo ballroom inside the KICC.

Mistrust, delayed results announcement

Other leaders present at the meeting accused IEBC of delaying the announcement of the results, insisting that the delays were already causing anxiety among Kenyans.

“The genuine forms that have been transmitted are all in the portal. And if you add them up, Raila Odinga has won the elections. If you go to the Kiems kits, again the result is the same,” said Siaya governor-elect James Orengo, adding that the police should begin investigating those accused of manipulating the results.

At the Bomas of Kenya where tallying is ongoing, each side of the political divide is constantly watching the other’s move, as mistrust delayed the pace of the vote count.

On Friday, a personal laptop that was noticed at the verification desk caused drama in the auditorium, with the leaders from the Azimio side claiming that their counterparts from Kenya Kwanza were trying to get critical information from the IEBC website to hack their system.

“There was a laptop at the verification table, we noticed unusual goings on as someone was keying in IEBC data into it. We managed to confiscate the laptop and handed it over to the police. We are waiting for our IT experts and the police to check what is in it,” said Alego Usonga MP-elect Samuel Atandi.

This claim was, however, dismissed by UDA secretary-general, Veronica Maina.“If you don’t have a laptop it means you will resort to paperwork where you will have to print thousands of documents from the 46,229 polling stations,” Ms Maina said.

The deep suspicion and commotion caused by the presidential agents of the leading candidates made IEBC commissioners call for an urgent meeting to resolve the impasse.

The meeting took three hours, during which the media was locked out of the main auditorium.

The Odinga team has secured a room within Bomas where they constantly have periodic meetings with their experts.

The media is not allowed at the facility, which is under 24-hour security. Only Azimio officials and Bomas of Kenya staff who serve them are allowed in the facility.

The Kenya Kwanza leaders could be seen making fervent consultations with Ms Maina, who is also an agent of DP Ruto while moving around the verification desks and making numerous phone calls.

The Kenya Kwanza team include Kericho senator-elect Aaron Cheruiyot, Uasin Gishu woman representative-elect Gladys Boss Sholei, Belgut MP-elect Nelson Koech, immediate former Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Mr Eliud Owalo.

Staying put

Due to the crowding of the politicians at the auditorium, IEBC was forced to order them out last evening, saying the venue would only be accessed by observers, the media and presidential poll agents.

“We have alerted security that nobody should be allowed into the auditorium. We have also communicated to security at the gate that nobody else will be allowed to get into Bomas,” said IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye.

The directive was, however, rejected by political leaders, especially from the Azimio front who were already at the auditorium, and shouted down Prof Guliye upon making the announcement.

The leaders from both sides did not move out as directed and not even the police officers could evict them.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said the process of clearing the returning officers was slow, as one was taking between three to four hours on each desk.

By 4pm yesterday, 265 returning officers had arrived at Bomas with the results from their respective constituencies, but only 141 had been processed.

The commission said the high number of unauthorised people making their way to the auditorium floor and interfering with the verification process as they interrogated returning officers were causing the delays.

“We have made changes to the programme to hasten the process of verification of the results. The remaining returning officers that have not been attended to will now directly submit their original forms 34A and forms 34B to the national returning officer,” Mr Chebukati said.

Meanwhile Garissa Township MP-elect Aden Duale dismissed the meeting held by elected Azimio MPs at KICC yesterday saying they misled Kenyans on the statements they made.

“Certainly lies, misinterpretation, twisting figures perhaps as attempts to hype your supporters and create false hope which can never be facts,” Mr Duale said in a statement.

Mr Duale told Azimio leaders to allow IEBC to conclude its job and desist from misleading Kenyans.

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