28 October 2017

Kenya's Election Saga Continues As Rerun Vote Is Placed On Hold

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Kenyan authorities have delayed the repeat election vote in some opposition areas due to the ongoing risk of violence. According to the Kenyan Supreme Court, the election re-run must be completed by October 31.

The Kenyan election board's decision came amid fears that clashes might escalate in areas when opposition supporters continued to block the vote. More than 20 of Kenya's 290 constituencies are still waiting to get to vote in the repeat election, which was called after the country's Supreme Court cancelled the result of the August vote over procedural irregularities.

Four counties where residents had blocked roads and clashed with police as part of an opposition boycott were due to vote on Saturday, two days after the rest of the country took to the polls. However, as violence continued, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Kenya's official election board, decided to put the plans on hold.

With at least five people reported killed amid clashes. Wafula Chebukati, head of the election commission, said that a date for the vote would be announced in the coming days.

Counting of votes continues

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta meanwhile was reported to have won more than 97 percent of votes counted so far in the constituencies where people had been able to cast their ballots and counting had been completed, according to a local media tally.

Voter turnout, however, was estimated to be at below 35 percent, casting doubts over the strength of his political mandate. The IEBC said that by Saturday afternoon, the results of only 114 out of 290 constituencies had been verified.

In Thursday's vote, Kenyatta faced six minor candidates as challengers - none of whom had won more than 1 percent in the August poll. His main rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, had opted not to run again.

Opposition boycott

Odinga pulled out of the repeat election after the result of the August election had been annulled by the courts, saying that the contest against incumbent President Kenyatta was not going to be fair. He had officially won 44.7 percent of the vote then, with an overall turnout of almost 80 percent.

For the repeat vote, Odinga called for a boycott on the grounds that the electoral commission had not made sufficient changes to ensure a free and fair vote. It would appear that his call was widely observed due to the record low turnout.

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta's running mate, treated Kenyatta's victory as a done deal, tweeting on Saturday that the repeat elections had "confirmed" the will of the people.

Further legal challenges

The repeat election had already been challenged, when an activist filed a case seeking to nullify the election 24 hours after Thursday's vote. Odinga meanwhile has vowed a campaign of "civil disobedience" and is demanding another election be held within 90 days.

Unless legal challenges fail to clear a path out of the crisis, including the possibility of yet another rerun, the political stalemate between the Odinga and Kenyatta camps is expected to continue. Politics in Kenya is largely divided along ethnic lines, and the Kikuyu people - the country's largest grouping -have long been accused of holding a monopoly on power.

Since the original August election, at least 50 people are reported to have died during a police crackdown on opposition supporters, according to information from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The political stalemate in Kenya is regarded as the country's worst crisis since 2007, when election results sparked months of politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,200 people dead.

ss/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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