Financial Times

Kenya election crisis deepens after law vote

by David Pilling - Africa editor, FT

October 12, 2017 | 5:09 pm
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The political battle over Kenya’s repeat presidential election intensified yesterday after parliament passed an amendment to the electoral law saying that, if one candidate withdraws from a re-run, the other automatically wins.


The parliamentary vote appears to be an effort by the ruling Jubilee coalition to checkmate Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa), who on Tuesday said he was withdrawing from the October 26 re-run as he did not believe the poll would be free and fair. The amendment could clear the way for President Uhuru Ken-yatta to declare himself winner of a contest in which he faces no opponents.


“If this stands, it explodes Nasa’s withdrawal strategy, which is based on there being no election,” said Nic Cheeseman, an expert on African democracy at Birmingham University.


The re-run was called after the Supreme Court nullified the results of August 8 elections, citing “irregularities” and “illegalities”. Mr Kenyatta had been declared the victor, but Nasa challenged the result.


Mr Odinga had been banking on no election taking place based on an ambiguous Supreme Court ruling about whether an election should be held if there were only one candidate. Analysts said that Mr Odinga, whose campaign is short of money and who looks like the underdog going into the re-run, was playing for time.


Mr Odinga rejected those claims, saying he wanted to ensure that the repeat election was run to a higher standard than the flawed August exercise. He has been demanding reforms to the electoral commission.


“We have provided a checklist of what we deem to be the irreducible minimum changes required to ensure compliance,” said Mr Odinga, who has sought to portray himself as a champion of democracy.


“Jubilee [former ruling party] are saying any election will do, but we in Nasa are calling for a credible election.”


In a parallel development, the High Court ruled yesterday that a minor opposition candidate, Ekuru Aukot, could stand in the October election, a ruling that could also play into Mr Kenyatta’s hands. If Mr Aukot decides to participate, the vote could go ahead even in Mr Odinga’s absence, handing Mr Kenyatta a probable landslide.


Police used tear gas to disperse opposition protesters demanding electoral reform outside the court as it ruled on Mr Aukot’s case.


Some Kenyans say the longer the judicial impasse drags on, the more damaging it could be for democracy in the east African nation and the greater the chance for a repeat of the violence that followed flawed 2007 elections.


Although the Supreme Court’s September decision to annul the election was praised, there is growing concern that the process has descended into a legal battle far from the ballot box.


“This is the tragedy of selfish African politicians,” said Patrick Lumumba, director of the Kenya School of Law, who has been critical of Mr Odinga’s refusal to accept defeat. “They try to get power by any means necessary, including using the judiciary.”





by David Pilling - Africa editor, FT

October 12, 2017 | 5:09 pm
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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