Kenya waits for cur­tain call on poll drama

At least 49 peo­ple have died since the first elec­tion in Au­gust, which was later over­turned

Gulf News - - Australia / Africa -

Kenya’s elec­tion board was ex­pected to de­cide yes­ter­day whether to resched­ule a vote in flash­point op­po­si­tion ar­eas, where a boy­cott sparked vi­o­lent protests, or to push ahead with declar­ing vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Uhuru Kenyatta.

With the count­ing al­most done af­ter Thurs­day’s pres­i­den­tial re-run, the re­sults re­mained on hold as of­fi­cials mulled what to do about the 25 con­stituen­cies in four western coun­ties where vot­ing was blocked.

Sup­port­ers of op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga, who called for an elec­tion boy­cott, man­aged to pre­vent hun­dreds of polling sta­tions from open­ing, prompt­ing vi­o­lent clashes with po­lice that con­tin­ued for sev­eral days, leav­ing nine dead and scores in­jured.

At least 49 peo­ple have died since the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of Au­gust 8, which was later over­turned, prompt­ing Kenya’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in a decade.

The months-long elec­toral dis­pute and in­creas­ingly di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal rhetoric has po­larised the na­tion and sparked in­ter­na­tional con­cern about the fu­ture of east Africa’s most sta­ble democ­racy.

Fol­low­ing Odinga’s boy­cott, Kenyatta is guar­an­teed a crush­ing win. Turnout fig­ures given by elec­tion chief Wa­fula Che­bukati late on Sun­day sug­gested the op­po­si­tion boy­cott had held with a turnout of 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple, equiv­a­lent to just 43 per cent of vot­ers in 251 of the 266 con­stituen­cies where the elec­tion took place.

Che­bukati said he was “sat­is­fied” with the count­ing process but made no com­ment on what would hap­pen in the protest-hit western ar­eas.

Plans to restage the vote in the western re­gions on Satur­day were quickly called off af­ter a sec­ond day of protests.

On Sun­day, Odinga, who says Thurs­day’s poll would have been nei­ther free nor fair, con­tin­ued to de­mand a new elec­tion within 90 days, vow­ing to stage a cam­paign of “civil dis­obe­di­ence”.

Firm stand

But Wil­liam Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy, was in­tran­si­gent.

“There will be no elec­tion in 90 days, there will be no dis­cus­sion on mat­ters to do with elec­tions,” he told Doha-based broad­caster Al Jazeera.

The elec­tion re-run was or­dered by Kenya’s Supreme Court af­ter it over­turned Kenyatta’s Au­gust vic­tory over “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” in the trans­mis­sion of votes. That rul­ing stip­u­lated that the vote must be com­pleted by Oc­to­ber 31.

While the Supreme Court rul­ing was hailed as a chance to deepen democ­racy, the ac­ri­mo­nious bick­er­ing be­tween Odinga and Kenyatta has sharply di­vided the coun­try.

AP

School stu­dents run for safety be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers dur­ing clashes in the suburb of Kawang­ware, Nairobi, Kenya, yes­ter­day.

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