Kenya rul­ing brings new un­cer­tainty to fresh poll


NAIROBI: A Kenyan judge on Wednesday ruled that a mi­nor op­po­si­tion can­di­date can run for pres­i­dent in this month’s elec­tion, bringing fresh un­cer­tainty a day after op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga with­drew from the new vote or­dered by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, law­mak­ers ap­proved amend­ments to the elec­toral law that have been crit­i­cized by the op­po­si­tion and West­ern diplo­mats. The amend­ments re­quire the ap­proval of Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta, whose rul­ing party sought the changes after the Supreme Court nul­li­fied Keny­atta’s elec­tion in Au­gust and cited “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.”

Else­where in Nairobi, po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse thou­sands of op­po­si­tion pro­test­ers who re­grouped out­side the elec­tion com­mis­sion’s of­fices and de­manded re­forms.

Wednesday’s court rul­ing ap­peared to open the way for other pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the Au­gust elec­tion to run again on Oct. 26, though none aside from Keny­atta and Odinga re­ceived even 1 per­cent of the vote.

Jus­tice John Ma­tivo said he did not see any rea­son for Ekuru Aukot to be barred from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the re­peat elec­tion. Aukot won about 27,000 votes of more than 15 mil­lion cast in the in­val­i­dated poll.

The Supreme Court last month re­jected the Au­gust elec­tion in which Keny­atta was de­clared the win­ner after Odinga chal­lenged the re­sults, say­ing hack­ers in­fil­trated the elec­toral com­mis­sion’s com­puter sys­tem to ma­nip­u­late the vote in Keny­atta’s fa­vor.

Odinga then sur­prised Kenyans on Tues­day by with­draw­ing from the fresh elec­tion, say­ing the elec­toral com­mis­sion must be changed or the new vote risked hav­ing the same prob­lems. His with­drawal cre­ated con­fu­sion in East Africa’s largest econ­omy, with ob­servers won­der­ing how the new elec­tion might go for­ward.

The elec­tion com­mis­sion has said it was meet­ing with its le­gal team on the way for­ward.

Keny­atta, who called the Supreme Court judges “crooks” after their rul­ing, has said he does not want changes to the elec­tion com­mis­sion. His Ju­bilee Party has in­stead has used its par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity to push for the changes to the elec­toral law.

The op­po­si­tion says the changes are meant to make the trans­mis­sion of elec­tion re­sults a man­ual process that would have fewer safe­guards against fraud, and would make it more dif­fi­cult for the court to an­nul an elec­tion.

Diplo­mats in­clud­ing the US am­bas­sador this month said the pro­posed amend­ments put at risk the elec­tion com­mis­sion’s “abil­ity to con­duct a bet­ter elec­tion” and un­nec­es­sar­ily in­crease po­lit­i­cal ten­sions.

A Kenyan op­po­si­tion sup­porter holds a plac­ard dur­ing their protest against elec­tion of­fi­cials over claims of bungling the Au­gust pres­i­den­tial vote, which was nul­li­fied by the Supreme Court, in Kisumu, on Wednesday. (AFP)

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