Thu, Oct 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Kenya election in flux after Odinga pull-out

Reuters, NAIROBI

A supporter of the Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance coalition blows a whistle during a demonstration in Nairobi yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A Kenyan court yesterday said a defeated candidate in August’s presidential elections could contest this month’s rerun, a day after the main opposition leader pulled out.

However, the Kenyan High Court ruling in favor of Ekuru Aukot failed to dispel concerns about how a deepening political crisis would play out, as he said he had doubts about standing while opposition supporters gathered in response to calls to demonstrate for electoral reform.

The repeat election between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga was scheduled for Oct. 26, after the Supreme Court annulled the original ballot — in which Kenyatta was declared the winner — due to procedural irregularities.

Odinga on Tuesday said that he was withdrawing amid concerns that the rerun would not be free and fair, renewing calls for a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which he blamed for the irregularities, to be appointed.

Further muddying the political waters, lawmakers yesterday passed an amendment to the nation’s election laws stipulating that if one candidate withdraws from a repeat presidential election, the other one would automatically win.

Once the president signs it, the law would immediately take effect, legislative spokesman Martin Mutua said.

The vote was boycotted by opposition lawmakers.

Tuesday’s declaration by Odinga fed into a mood of unease that has stoked citizens’ fears over a potential descent into violence and blunted growth.

A repeat of the widespread ethnic clashes that killed 1,200 people followed a disputed presidential poll in 2007 appears unlikely at this stage.

However, at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the vote, almost all of them by police, a Kenyan rights group said on Monday.

Opposition supporters yesterday again demonstrated for changes at the electoral board.

Protesters lit bonfires in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, while hundreds of other supporters gathered in the main park in Nairobi.

“We want a reformed IEBC,” opposition legislator Elisha Odhiambo said, referring to the electoral board, which has frequently relied on riot police dispersing protests outside its offices.

Aukot told reporters outside the High Court that he still had concerns about the board and would issue a statement in a day or two giving clarity about his plans.

Justice John Mativo earlier said he could “find nothing to bar the petitioner [Aukot] from contesting the fresh election.”

It was unclear if other candidates from the first ballot with little support would also seek to be included, but the election board said it still had time to print ballot papers.

The Sept. 1 Supreme Court judgement that nullified Kenyatta’s 1.4 million vote win also stipulated elections had to be held within 60 days.

If that schedule is not met, the constitution provides for the speaker of the legislature, a member of Kenyatta’s party, to take power.

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