Kenya vote in the balance as crisis deepens
KENYA: Kenya lurched deeper into political confusion yesterday as a court ruling and a parliamentary vote appeared to ease Uhuru Kenyatta’s path to a second term as president, a day after his chief rival quit an election they were to contest.
Kenyatta and Raila Odinga were due to face off in a repeat election on October 26, after the Supreme Court annulled their August ballot - in which the president was declared the winner.
But Odinga pulled out of the rerun on Wednesday, fuelling doubts about whether it would be contested at all. Yesterday’s interventions by the judiciary and legis- lature added to the uncertainty.
As police used tear gas to disperse opposition protesters demanding electoral reform, the High Court approved a petition by Ekuru Aukot, who polled less than 1 per cent in the August vote, to contest the second ballot.
The election board later issued a statement saying that all eight candidates who competed in August would be on the ballot. It also said although Odinga had notified them of his withdrawal by letter, he had not yet submitted the official form to do so.
The developments suggested that the second election would go ahead, with Kenyatta the likely winner against a plethora of weaker candidates. No challenger except Odinga polled more than 1 per cent.
Further muddying the political waters, parliament passed an election law amendment stating that if one candidate withdrew from the re-run vote, the remaining one would automatically win. The vote was boycotted by opposition lawmakers.
The law aimed to ensure Kenyatta could be declared president if he faced no challengers.
The events stoked confusion among voters and fears that politically-driven violence might escalate. Months of political uncer- tainty have already blunted growth in East Africa’s richest nation, a long-time ally of the West.
Odinga said the election would not be free and fair, and renewed calls for the electoral board, which he blamed for the procedural irregularities identified in the first ballot, to be replaced.
Opposition supporters yesterday renewed their protests for electoral reform. Demonstrators lit bonfires in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold in the country’s west, while more than a thousand supporters marched through the central business district in the capital, Nairobi. - Reuters