Kenyan opposition calls for re-run of presidential vote to be cancelled


Kenya’s opposition on Friday called the re-run of presidential elections “a sham” and said that plans to reorganise voting in its western strongholds where the vote was delayed risked provoking further violence and should be cancelled.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has won more than 96 percent of votes counted so far, according to a local media tally, but his second term mandate is weak as turnout fell below 35 percent and the integrity of the vote was undermined by deadly clashes.

Sporadic violence continued on Friday, with police saying they shot dead one man, bringing to five the number of confirmed dead since voting began on Thursday.

FRANCE 24’s Julia Steers, reporting from Nairobi, said that election commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati says voting has been going relatively smoothly so far. Nevertheless, many fear a repeat of the deadly violence seen earlier this week in counties considered to be opposition strongholds.

“People are on edge here, waiting to see what will happen tomorrow in those four counties,” she said. Political leaders and church leaders have urged the election commission to reconsider plans to hold a re-vote there on Saturday, warning of “chaos”.

Many expect new clashes may be unavoidable if they try to go forward with the vote, she said.

Musalia Mudavadi, a senior opposition leader, accused authorities of “ethnic profiling” and of having “militarised elections” as they beef up security ahead of a plan to hold a new round of voting in Homa Bay, Kisumu, Migori and Siaya on Saturday.

“In the event that [the election commission] refuses to listen to wisdom and instead goes on with this meaningless forced poll, we advise the people not to walk into this trap of death,” he told reporters on Friday.

“We call on the residents of these counties to stay away from these planned polls,” he added.

The vote has exposed the country’s deep political and ethnic divisions as violence flared and court cases dragged on. It is being closely watched as Kenya is a regional trade and logistics hub as well as a powerful security ally for Western nations.

Around 50 people have been killed, most by security forces, since the original August 8 vote, raising fears of the type of violence that left 1,200 people dead in serious ethnic fighting triggered by a disputed 2007 vote.

On Friday morning, shops started to reopen and traffic returned to Kisumu as well as the restive Nairobi areas of Kibera and Mathare, although rocks and the remnants of burnt barricades sill littered the roads.

‘One Kenya, two faces’

Kenya’s first presidential election in August was annulled by the Supreme Court because of procedural irregularities, denying President Kenyatta a simple victory over opposition challenger Raila Odinga. Turnout in that election was 80 percent.

If the expected legal challenges fail to clear a path out of the crisis, the result will be a protracted and economically damaging political stalemate between the Kenyatta and Odinga camps.

“Unless the courts annul the election, Kenyatta will move forward without a clear mandate and Odinga will pursue a protest strategy, whose chances of success in the circumstances are not very high,” International Crisis Group analyst Murithi Mutiga said.

The division was neatly captured in local media, with the Standard, a leading tabloid, headlining its front page: “One Kenya, two faces”.

The election commission said more than one in 10 polling stations has so far failed to open due to “security challenges”.

Chebukati, the commission’s chairman, tweeted overnight that 6.55 million ballots had already been cast – just 34.5 percent of registered voters.

A tally of results announced at the constituency level compiled by the Nation media group showed Kenyatta had won over 96 percent of the vote with 200 of 292 constituencies reporting. Figures released by the election commission showed turnout in Kenyatta’s Rift Valley and Central region strongholds was similar to levels seen in August.

However, the opposition boycott call was heeded by voters on the coast, which is far from Kenyatta’s western homeland and has overwhelmingly supported Odinga in previous polls.

Legal challenges

Opposition lawyers may cite the failure to open all polling stations across the country as a reason to declare the second poll unconstitutional and seek a fresh contest.

Other grounds could include a High Court ruling the day before the new election began that found hundreds of election officers had been improperly recruited.

“The election obviously did not conform to constitutional requirements,” said James Orengo, co-chair of the opposition legal team. But he said no decision on whether to file a challenge had yet been reached. The team has seven days after polls close to submit a case.

But some are not willing to wait. Civil society activist Okiya Omtata filed a Supreme Court case on Friday challenging the legality of the elections.

Coincidentally, amendments to an election law curtailing the reasons the Supreme Court can cite to nullify an election entered into force on Friday. Kenyatta had not signed the amendments but they were pending long enough to become law, his spokesman said.

Opposition supporters hailed the Supreme Court when it overturned Kenyatta’s August win in an unexpected rebuke to both election authorities and international observers. The court ruling was the first of its kind in Africa.

But for many, concerns over the independence of the judiciary resurfaced after five out of seven judges failed to show up for a hearing on Wednesday that would have debated delaying the election.

Chief Justice David Maraga said that one judge was sick, one was stranded and another was too upset to show up after her bodyguard was shot the night before in an attack the opposiiton was quick to claim was an attempt at intimidation. Maraga did not account for the other two missing justices.

“I think it was deliberately choreographed,” said Steve Aluoch, a motorcycle taxi driver in Kisumu. “I would not be surprised if a similar charade plays out if a petition is filed.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-10-27

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