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Kenya Faces Challenges New Presidential Polls

  • Jill Craig

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, waves to supporters as he leaves the St. Stephen's cathedral after attending a church service in Nairobi, Sept. 3, 2017.

It's been four days, but some Kenyans are still shocked that the Supreme Court nullified the results of last month's presidential election, citing ‘irregularities and illegalities’ in the transmission of results.

“It’s the first time that one arm of the government and specifically, the judiciary, has been brave enough, if I can use those words, to stick to the constitutional provisions and the rule of law, and therefore, overturn the declaration of a sitting president who was declared president-elect,” said Adams Oloo, senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Now the clock is ticking, after the court ruled that the the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission must hold a new election within 60 days.

Kenyan Supreme Court judgesdeliver the verdict on a petition challenging the presidential election result, at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Sept. 1, 2017
Kenyan Supreme Court judgesdeliver the verdict on a petition challenging the presidential election result, at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Sept. 1, 2017

​Kenya’s presidential spokesman said Monday that the government will not replace the members of the commission, a decision that will no doubt anger the opposition, which said Friday that the panel committed "criminal" acts in the last election and that most belong in jail.

Nanjala Nyabola, a Nairobi-based writer and political analyst, argues that low public confidence in the IEBC will be a big concern going into the next election, and she believes the commissioners should resign.

“In good conscience, if they look at the indictment that they’ve received from the justices, they should consider stepping aside and letting their alternates take their position. That would be the ideal situation,” said Nyabola.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga celebrate after hearing the verdict on a petition challenging the presidential election result, in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 1, 2017.
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga celebrate after hearing the verdict on a petition challenging the presidential election result, in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 1, 2017.

Oloo agrees with Nyabola that resignations would be the best option. He also says that the drafters of Kenya’s 2010 constitution did not envision the current electoral situation.

“There was an omission by the drafters because they didn’t anticipate a situation in which the very body charged with conducting the elections, if it was indicted, then the 60 days would not allow room and one of the players would most likely feel that ‘I can’t trust you.’ Yet that’s what the constitution says, so that’s a challenge,” said Oloo.

Kenyan political writer and commentator Barrack Muluka says the short time frame will be challenging for the electoral commission, but predicts it could work, given that this election will be simpler than the one August 8.

“[P]reviously, they were dealing with six elections and this time around, they have one election,” said Muluka. “They could also take comfort in the fact that it shouldn’t be difficult for them to know where they dropped the ball, who dropped the ball, and for them to deal with that particular individual or with those individuals.”

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by his deputy, William Ruto, addresses the nation at State House in Nairobi, Sept. 1, 2017.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by his deputy, William Ruto, addresses the nation at State House in Nairobi, Sept. 1, 2017.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition candidate Raila Odinga didn’t waste time in getting back in campaign mode over the weekend, speaking to large crowds of supporters in Nairobi, Thika, and Nakuru.

Kenyatta said he will respect the court ruling, but referred to Supreme Court justices as wakora, a Swahili word for crooks.

Odinga has continued to condemn the electoral commission.

In the meantime, Kenyans are still waiting for the release of the Supreme Court’s full judgment, which is required within 21 days of the ruling.

The IEBC announced last month that Kenyatta beat Odinga by a margin of about 1.4 million votes.

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