Kenya is running out of time to ensure a credible rerun of presidential elections that were annulled by the nation’s top court after the main opposition party
alleged that they were rigged.
With the next vote due in just five weeks, the electoral commission is mired in infighting over who should take the fall for last month’s botched contest. Demands by ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 72, and his National Super Alliance that sweeping changes be made to the commission, including the removal of its chief executive officer, have also placed them at loggerheads with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party.
“As things stand now, most of the people that ran the Aug. 8 elections are still in office and the system that they used has not been changed,” Peter Wayande, a politics professor at the University of Nairobi, said by phone from the capital. “As long as that remains the case, one cannot expect credible elections. If things are not done right, there will definitely be a crisis that will result in political instability.”
Controversy has marred most elections in Kenya since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1991, and peaked after a disputed 2007 vote triggered two months of violence that left at least 1,100 people dead. Clashes that ensued after last month’s results announcement claimed 24 lives, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and another disputed result would elevate the risk of further violence and disruption to East Africa’s biggest economy.
The prospect of protracted uncertainty has weighed on financial markets, with the yield on the nation’s foreign debt climbing 15 basis points since the election was annulled and the FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index of stocks dropping 3.2 percent. Kenya hosts the regional headquarters of companies including Google Inc. and General Electric Co. and several United Nations agencies, and is the world’s largest shipper of black tea.
While Kenyatta accepted the ruling, he’s criticized the decision by calling the judges “crooks” and saying he plans to “fix” the court if he is re-elected. He also threatened to impeach Odinga if the opposition leader wins, using the ruling Jubilee Party’s parliamentary majority.
Odinga’s alliance alleged that computer systems were tampered with and vote tallies were altered to ensure the re-election of Kenyatta, 55, last month. On Sept. 1 the Supreme Court ruled that the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.” It’s yet to release its detailed findings.