Kenyan aspirants scramble for diaspora vote
Kenyan aspirants scramble for diaspora vote: Presidential aspirants are making unprecedented efforts to secure votes of Kenyans living outside the country in the belief that they could be crucial in winning the contest for State House in the forthcoming General Election.
Leading aspirants have opened offices in key cities such as London in the United Kingdom, New York and Washington in the US and Johannesburg in South Africa in their determination to tap the vote, which could tilt the results for President Kibaki’s successor.
The scramble for the external voters comes as a government team to craft the rules and regulations guiding Diaspora voting — one of the new provisions in the Constitution — burns the midnight oil to ensure that Kenyans out there play a role in the choice of the next leadership.
“The team (government task force) is working overtime. We want the report to be ready by the time the boundaries team (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) has completed its work. We want diaspora voting to start with a bang,” said Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Sunday.
Kenyans in the Diaspora, who were hitherto only courted for campaign financing, were given the right to vote for the first time ever by the new Constitution. (READ: Diaspora want assurance they can vote)
Many not registered
Even though the IEBC estimates there are as many as three million Kenyans abroad, less than half of them are registered with embassies and consulates, according to figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
With 600,000, the United States has the highest number followed by the United Kingdom (300,000), Canada (60,000), United Arab Emirates (46,000), South Africa (40,000) and South Sudan (20,000).
And with opinion polls predicting a tight race for State House, the parties and candidates are stepping up efforts to gain the support of this vote. (READ: Kenyan diaspora a resource to be harnessed)
Immigration and Registration of Persons Minister Otieno Kajwang’ last week said registration centres will be opened in London, Washington and other cities to give ID cards to Kenyans who have turned 18 so that they can be issued with voters’ cards.
Alternatively, he said, they could also use their passports to register as voters.
Key presidential aspirants have been forced to factor the the Diaspora in their campaign schedules by making frequent trips abroad and appointing point people to popularise their presidential bids.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also ODM party leader, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper Democratic Movement), Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta (Kanu), Martha Karua (Narc Kenya) and Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth who hopes to vie on a Kenya National Congress ticket, are among those seeking to benefit from the Diaspora vote.
Mr Odinga has appointed Mr John Maina in his campaign secretariat to coordinate Diaspora campaigns. So far, the PM’s team has opened offices in the US, UK and Australia.
Mr Musyoka, using his past network as the Foreign Affairs Minister, has been active in the Diaspora