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Kenyan President Signs Electoral Law Amid Rigging Fears

  • Associated Press

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his speech to the nation during the 53rd Jamhuri Day Celebration (Independence Day) at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Dec. 12, 2016.

Kenya's president Monday signed an amendment to the country's election law to allow manual voting and counting of ballots as a backup, a move the opposition called a back door to rigging this year's presidential election.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission can implement the backup process if the electronic voting system fails, said President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is running for a second term in the August election.

Kenya's Senate approved the changes on Friday. The opposition coalition, led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice Presidents Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka, said legislators in the Senate's ruling coalition have “committed a great betrayal on the people of Kenya.”

The opposition also accused the ruling coalition of casting fraudulent votes during Friday's session.

Both houses of Parliament held emergency meetings over the holidays to pass the amendment to sections of the electoral law that were reformed with bipartisan support just months ago, in August. Those reforms followed weeks of street protests led by the opposition during which more than five people were shot dead by police.

Kenya tried to digitize its 2013 general elections to prevent the vote-rigging in 2007 that sparked violence and left more than 1,000 people dead. But finger-scanning voter identification equipment didn't work properly, while the server handling the vote count crashed. The results ended up being tabulated manually.

Odinga unsuccessfully challenged Kenyatta's 2013 election win before the Supreme Court, claiming the system was designed to fail to allow for the more easily manipulated manual system.

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