Kenya election watchdog probes vote buying reports

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NAIROBI, Oct 17 (Reuters) Kenya's election watchdog said today it was investigating complaints that voters' registration cards were being bought ahead of presidential, parliamentary and council elections later in the year.

Jack Tumwa, a commissioner in the Electoral Commission of Kenya, said it was possible that both the opposition and members of the ruling party were involved in the scam to buy cards in their opponents' strongholds.

''It is true that there is voter buying,'' Tumwa said in an interview with BBC Radio.

''If one wants to sell his birth right by selling his voter's card ... that is very, very unfortunate.'' Unscrupulous politicians have in past elections bought cards or dished out cash to entice voters in the east African country where half of the population lives in poverty.

''I am not in a position to tell you whether it is the opposition or the government, but I would say ... because the complaints have come from both sides, both parties are playing a role in this,'' Tumwa added.

Under Kenyan law it is a crime to possess another person's voting card.

The commision has previously said tribalism, violence and graft were rife in Kenyan politics and said the polls that are expected in December, could be a test of how far the country had come since the end of single-party rule the early 1990s.

Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki is seeking a second term in office and faces opposition from his main rivals Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, and Kalonzo Musyoka of the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya.

REUTERS PD HS1514

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