What next in Kenya election crisis?
Kenya’s High Court has ruled that all candidates who participated in the 8 August presidential election can now stand in the re-run later this month.
This comes a day after the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, announced that he was pulling out.
The re-run was ordered by the Supreme Court, which annulled the August vote won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, citing irregularities and illegalities.
But Mr Odinga says that nothing has changed, so the same mistakes would probably be made in the new election.
Meanwhile, parliament has passed a series of changes to the election law, which the opposition has condemned.
Will the re-run still take place?
According to the constitution, it must be held by 1 November.
And the latest court order means that even though Mr Odinga has pulled out, President Uhuru Kenyatta should still face some competition, unless they all pull out as well.
From Mr Kenyatta’s point of view, that lends some credibility to the poll, even though the other candidates got less than 1% of the vote between them, so Mr Kenyatta looks set to be re-elected.
Initially, the re-run had been due to only feature President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, who gained 54% and 45% of the vote respectively.
Why did Mr Odinga pull out?
His National Super Alliance (Nasa) says its conditions for a credible election have not been met, and it wants to give the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) more time to introduce reforms.
Nasa’s demands include:
- Firing electoral officials it blames for bungling the 8 August poll
- Replacing the companies that printed ballot papers and supplied the voter verification and transmission kits
- Embedding international experts with the IEBC to oversee its IT systems to prevent results being rigged.
Have any changes been made at the IEBC?
After the annulment of the presidential election, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati promised to make changes to his team, but he is believed to have faced resistance from other commissioners.
Mr Chebukati has, however, appointed a special team to be in charge of the re-run election but it is unclear how it will work with the rest of the commission or what its powers are.
The IEBC has also said that it is contractually bound to stick to the same firms that supplied the electoral material and cannot dismiss them.
After Mr Odinga announced that he was pulling out of the race, the commission said it would seek advice from its legal team on the way forward.
What does Mr Kenyatta’s party say?
The governing Jubilee Party has said it will carry on with the re-run.
It has used its parliamentary majority to push through controversial changes to electoral legislation, raising fears that it wants to water down controls put in place to prevent rigging.
The changes include:
- Requiring anyone challenging a future election result to prove that irregularities had altered the outcome
- Dropping the requirement that the IEBC chair must have 15 years of experience as a senior judge, lawyer or academic. Critics say this may be a way of replacing the current chairperson with someone friendly to the governing party
- Giving the IEBC head the power to declare a winner in the presidential vote if outstanding uncounted votes would not make a difference.
The controversial amendments have been widely criticised by the opposition, religious leaders, rights groups, western diplomats including the US and UK, and the electoral commission.
They say the changes come too close to the election date and would not bode well for the preparations that must be done before the election.
The changes have not yet taken effect but President Kenyatta has said that he would sign the changes into law.
The Jubilee Party defended the changes, saying they were intended to “correct the errors” which led to the annulment of the August election.
What is the mood in Kenya?
The often-heard joke is that the election is now a convenient alibi, which can be blamed for everything.
Despite the serial inclination of Kenyans to make light of a situation, there is no running away from the fact that the country is in the midst of a serious crisis.
There are frequent street protests in Nairobi, Mombasa and parts of western Kenya where Mr Odinga is popular.
Businessmen have been complaining that the economy has slowed, as people are unsure about what will happen next.
In a report on Monday, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights report said that 37 people – including a 6-month-old baby girl, a 7-year-old boy, and an 8-year-old girl – were killed in violence after the 8 August election.
It accused the security forces of using excessive force, including live bullets, to quell opposition protests.
With Nasa organising a new round of of protests under the slogan “No reform, no election” and the Jubilee Party pressing ahead with its election campaign, there is concern that violence could erupt again.