Five questions about Kenya’s election saga
Two months after Kenyans lined up to vote for a president, the election is still far from over.
A dramatic series of twists and turns has seen the first result annulled and a new election scheduled that opposition leader Raila Odinga is now refusing to take part in.
Here are five questions to help untangle the political crisis that has plunged east Africa’s biggest economy into uncertainty.
What does Odinga want?
A free and fair election and to finally be president: two things he believes go hand-in-hand.
The 72-year-old flag bearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition believes the August 8 election was rigged, causing him to lose what was widely seen as his last shot at the presidency after three previous failed efforts.
To the shock of many, he won a Supreme Court petition on September 1 to have President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory overturned.
In its ruling, the court cited “irregularities” in the counting process and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
On Tuesday, Odinga said the IEBC had failed to make the vital reforms he demanded ahead of a re-run on October 26, and he was thus withdrawing from the race.
He had wanted top IEBC officials sacked, and for new firms to take control of election technology and the printing of ballot papers — demands the commission said were impossible to fulfil in the 60-day period legally allowed for a new election.
Odinga believes his withdrawal forces the IEBC to start the whole process again from scratch, leaving more time for reforms.
In the meantime, his party has called for daily protests from next week to maintain the pressure for reforms.
What does Kenyatta want?
To remain president, which he believes will happen if the election goes ahead on October 26.
The 55-year-old son of Kenya’s first president was infuriated by the invalidation of his 54 percent victory, slamming the Supreme Court judges as “crooks” and vowing to “fix” the court if re-elected.
He insists the election take place, with or without Odinga.
“He said it is his democratic right not to participate, we tell him also, it is the people’s right to participate in an election, to chose their leaders,” Kenyatta said.
What does the IEBC say?
After widespread expectation the commission would clarify the way forward, it said little in a statement Wednesday, noting only that Odinga had yet to submit the required form to pull out of the race.
It appears to be pushing forward as if the election will happen on October 26, saying that all eight original candidates would be allowed on the ballot following a High Court order on Wednesday.
The electoral body had initially said only Odinga and Kenyatta should take part, prompting a third candidate to complain to the court which ruled in his favour.
The IEBC has said once Odinga submits the required form, it will be processed “in accordance with the required provision of the law”.
What does the law say?
Election law in Kenya is extremely complex.
Rules and regulations are laid out in the 2010 Constitution and the Elections Act, and the guidelines were further fine-tuned in 2013 when the Supreme Court dismissed a previous request by Odinga to overturn that year’s election result.
And it is that 2013 ruling that Odinga is betting on to have the upcoming election cancelled and the whole process started anew.
The Supreme Court ruled that in the case of a fresh election following the invalidation of a poll if a candidate who took part in the original vote dies or withdraws, the ballot should be cancelled and a new one held.
Will there be a vote on October 26?
That is the $100 million question.
The IEBC says logistical preparations are in place to hold the new election.
However, as it has not given its interpretation of what will happen if a candidate formally withdraws, anything is possible.
The commission — or any other party — could turn to the Supreme Court for clarification on the law, leading to more court battles.
Or the commission could push forward with the election, risking the wrath of the opposition on the streets.
by Fran BLANDY – AFP Online New