NAIROBI - Kenya’s opposition held rallies in Nairobi and Kisumu Wednesday, as the country awaits word from the electoral commission on whether the re-run of the presidential election will go forward as planned. Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s withdrawal from the race has pushed Kenya further into uncharted territory.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Nairobi Wednesday, following Tuesday’s announcement by Odinga that he will not participate in the re-run of the election, set for October 26.
Odinga and his NASA opposition coalition argue that according to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, their withdrawal means that the electoral commission, or IEBC, must cancel the polls and conduct fresh nominations, which should take place at least 90 days before a general election.
Protester Jonathan Ogasso says he agrees with Odinga.
“I think he has exercised his democratic right, which is enshrined in the constitution of Kenya, and that in a sense nullifies the election that was scheduled for the 26th of October. So we are going back for a new election after 90 days. That’s all we know,” Ogasso said.
But he may not know. The IEBC has yet to say what it will do in the aftermath of Odinga’s announcement.
The IEBC could decide to hold elections in two weeks as scheduled. The commission could also decide that President Uhuru Kenyatta is the winner by default. That option became more complicated Wednesday, after the High Court ruled that Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot could run in the October 26 election, since he took part in the petition that nullified the previous one.
Or, the IEBC could agree with NASA’s interpretation and instruct the parties to hold fresh nominations.
Nairobi-based political writer and commentator Barrack Muluka believes this option to be the “most ideal path,” saying that the Supreme Court’s 2013 guidance should be followed.
“And that way, we can be sure that within a period of just about 90 days, the country could put this thing behind it. Any other avenue, I see a lot of litigation, and I see a lot of delay and a heightening of tempers, and I see a lot of confusion on any other avenue,” Muluka said.
Scheaffer Okore, a program officer at political engagement organization Siasa Place, agrees that the IEBC should conduct elections after fresh nominations, after they fix the problems addressed by the Supreme Court. And, she urges calm.
“The Kenyan voters right now, we need to all calm down and start learning from the fact that our democracy is being pushed to grow. And not being pushed for doom. I don’t understand why people are so pessimistic about what happened. I mean, a presidential candidate withdrawing is not the end. A presidential candidate withdrawing should all wake us up to realize that there are loopholes still in our constitution and these loopholes need to be addressed,” Okore said.
Kenya has been in electoral limbo since the original results were nullified on September 1, due to what the Supreme Court called “irregularities and illegalities” in the transmission of results.
Now, the country waits for the IEBC to say how it plans to proceed, in an electoral season that seems to grow more dramatic with each passing day.