29 December 2002

Kenya: Opposition Wins Landslide Presidential and Parliamentary Victory


Nairobi — Veteran opposition leader Mwai Kibaki and his National Rainbow Coalition swept to victory in presidential and parliamentary elections, Sunday, imposing a stunning defeat on the governing Kenya African National Union (Kanu) of outgoing President Daniel arap Moi.

The verdict of an opposition victory was based on provisional results from the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) on Sunday morning. ECK spokesman Mani Lemayian said final official results were expected later in the day. "He (Kibaki) has won convincingly and we will announce it officially later today, when these interim results have been accepted and certified," Lemayian told Reuters.

The unofficial results concluded that Kibaki polled twice as many votes as the main government challenger, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding president and handpicked by Moi as his successor.

Narc also looks set to take up the majority of seats in Kenya’s 210-member parliament, once provisional results are confirmed.

Kibaki, an economist and once a vice-president under Moi, has tried and failed twice to oust his former boss in previous democratic elections in 1992 and 1997. But, say analysts, his attempts were thwarted because of a splintered opposition which presented numerous candidates. This allowed Moi, in power for the past 24 years, to win handsomely and maintain his stranglehold on power.

Kibaki’s supporters say he and close ally Raila Odinga used their political savvy in the 2002 poll to unite under the Narc umbrella about a dozen opposition parties, as well as leading defectors from Moi’s party. They then presented Kenya’s veteran leader, who is bound by the constitution to step down, with the most credible challenge ever faced by Kanu in its 39-year rule since independence from Britain in 1963.

The 2-to-1 opposition victory margin marks the end of an era and could usher in a new start for Kenya, a tea- and coffee-producing country of 30 million, facing economic, social and ethnic woes. Kibaki and his new government know that they have to deliver on the huge expectations of Kenyans hungry for a positive change.

"The Kenyan people have now spoken and it is with great joy and humility that we accept their trust in president-elect Kibaki and Narc," said Raila Odinga, Saturday, before confirmation of the historic opposition win.

Odinga, another former Moi minister, who is now a leading member of the opposition alliance, told a news conference Saturday that he had some advice for outgoing President Moi: "I think that the most honourable thing to do now is accept defeat and hand over gracefully."

Intense speculation in the capital Nairobi has it that Kibaki will be sworn in as early as Monday, if Narc has its way.


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