Dispute in Kenya’s presidential vote simmers as officials work for solution
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s second presidential election since August remained in limbo Saturday as the election commission said it was working on a “way forward” in opposition areas where voting has been postponed because of unrest.
Most of the country was calm, but police used tear gas to disperse crowds in a Nairobi slum where anger toward the government runs deep.
It was unclear when tensions over the election, a rerun of the nullified August vote, would subside. Opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted the vote Thursday, citing a lack of election reforms. Tallies from many polling stations, published on the election commission’s website, showed President Uhuru Kenyatta with vast leads over Odinga and six other candidates.
But any decision to declare Kenyatta the winner would likely intensify grievances among opposition supporters in the East African country with a reputation for stability and economic growth. Kenya is struggling with divisions fueled by ethnic-based politics. The voting delays in four counties where opposition supporters have fought with police have complicated hopes for the country’s troubled democracy.
The election commission will provide an update Sunday “on the way forward” in two dozen constituencies where voting did not occur, commission chief Wafula Chebukati said.
“We have the materials ready but we can’t do this alone. It’s a security issue,” Chebukati said. “We cannot put the lives of our staff at risk.”
The election commission also revised its turnout from Thursday’s election to 48 percent of 19.6 million registered voters, saying an earlier estimate of about one-third was not based on complete data. The opposition boycott reduced turnout in comparison to the Aug. 8 vote, when nearly 80 percent of registered voters participated.
The Supreme Court nullified the August vote because of irregularities — the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential election. Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the ruling, withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms.
The streets of Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city and an opposition stronghold, were largely quiet Saturday, though police clashed with crowds in the Kawangware slum.
Young men in Kawangware, some carrying machetes, taunted the police and ran for cover. “No Raila, no peace,” some chanted.
“I don’t see this ending soon,” said one supporter, Paul Maumo.
Six people have died in violence linked to the vote.
Opposition supporters of Raila Odinga carrying rocks and machetes tried to march down a road leading out of the Kawangware area before being pushed back by police firing tear gas Saturday in Nairobi, Kenya.