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Disputes, Logistics, Throw New Kenyan Poll Date Into Doubt

  • Jill Craig

FILE - A Kenyan election volunteer walks past ballot boxes and electoral material to be distributed to various polling stations in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 7, 2017. Kenyans went to the polls Aug. 8 but the vote results were annulled by the country's Supreme Court.

Kenya’s election drama continues. The country is scheduled to hold its new presidential poll on October 17, but there is already talk of postponement due to technical issues and arguments over the electoral commission. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, which annulled the results of last month’s vote, has come under fresh fire from ruling party supporters.

Police fired tear gas Tuesday to disperse ruling Jubilee party protesters demonstrating outside the Supreme Court, demanding the removal of two justices. The protesters say the justices met with opposition attorneys before the Supreme Court overturned the victory of their candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, in the August 8 presidential election.

Chief Justice Maraga spoke to reporters, saying the court will not be intimidated.

“The judiciary, as currently constituted, cannot and shall not guarantee a particular outcome to any individual. We call upon Kenyans of good will to stand up for the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. On our part, we are prepared to pay the ultimate price, to protect the constitution and the rule of law,” Maraga said.

The chief justice announced on September 1 that a new poll should take place within 60 days, due to what he called “irregularities and illegalities” by the electoral commission in the transmission of election results.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta gestures to supporters as he leaves an election rally at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 9, 2017.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta gestures to supporters as he leaves an election rally at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 9, 2017.

The Supreme Court has until Friday to release the full details of what it says went wrong in August. That will leave the electoral commission, or IEBC, less than a month to correct issues ahead of the re-run election scheduled for October 17.

There is already talk of a postponement.

University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora said the election can be organized within the constitutional time limit.

“Not necessarily on October 17, but I’m convinced within the 60 days provided by the constitution, we shall have the election. It may be pushed maybe a week, maybe the 24th, maybe the 31st, but within the 60 days, yes,” Manyora said.

However, opposition leader Raila Odinga and his NASA coalition have threatened to boycott the polls if demands like the removal of key IEBC officials are not met.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd of his supporters in the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2, 2017.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd of his supporters in the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2, 2017.

Adding to the challenges, the French IT company that supplied the August election systems has told the IEBC the systems need to be reinstalled, and therefore, will not be ready by October 17.

Given these issues, political commentator Barrack Muluka questions whether the election will take place even by the end of October.

If it does and NASA boycotts it, he says, there could be bigger problems.

“Because I don’t think that NASA would stay out and say, ‘Okay, so you went on with the elections, and we stayed out because we didn’t think the ground was level enough, but carry on.’ I don’t think they would sit down and say that they have lost out, and they would be satisfied with that. I suspect that we would see a new wave of activities, perhaps not very pleasant ones,” Muluka said.

The ruling Jubilee party has said the re-run should proceed as scheduled on October 17.

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