12 October 2017

Kenya's Deepening Election and Political Crisis

Photo: Daily Nation
Nasa supporters demonstrate on Kenyatta Avenue on October 09, 2017

Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya has been the scene of protests following the withdrawal of main opposition candidate Raila Odinga from the presidential election set for October 26, 2017. The political crisis has further deepened after parliament passed an amendment to the electoral law saying if one candidate withdraws from a re-run, the other automatically wins. Kenya faces a precarious future following the recent political developments.

Kenya faces a precarious future after parliament passed an amendment to the electoral law stipulating that if one candidate withdraws from a re-run, the other automatically wins. With just more than two weeks before the re-run of a presidential election, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga announced his withdrawal from the race, putting the country in an uncertain trajectory.

On August 8, 2017, Kenyans went to the polls to vote for their president, governors, senators, members of parliament and members of the county assembly. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party as the winner.

However, the opposition leader Odinga and his part the National Super Alliance (NASA) disputed the elections results, raising concerns over the credibility of the process due to irregularities and illegalities.

The Supreme Court of Kenya heard the case and declared the results of the August 8 elections null and void. It ordered the IEBC to hold fresh presidential elections within 60 days, the date falling on October 26.

Odinga's withdrawal from the elections has cast uncertainty in the country, as most people do not know the full impact of such a decision. Supporters of his party have been on the street, demanding election reforms.

On Wednesday, the parliament passed a law that sees the remaining presidential candidate the winner if one candidate withdraws. Other changes to the Election Law include the scrapping of the minimum requirements needed for the chairperson of the elections commission as well as limiting the Supreme Court's ability to overturn election results. The amendments are set to go the Senate for further discussions.

Odinga had cited these amendments as part of the reasons he withdrew from the elections.

The IEBC has however stated that Odinga is still in the run for elections, as he has not submitted the required Form 24A, a document that is recognised in law when a candidate withdraws from the race.

"It is the commission's position that the candidates for the fresh presidential election scheduled for October 26, 2017, shall include all the eight candidates who participated in the 8th August presidential election," IEBC said in a statement.

The elections commission held a meeting the whole day as it determined the way forward after the High Court stated that the seven candidates who were on the ballot paper on August 8 were qualified to participate in the re-run. IEBC had earlier stated only Kenyatta and Odinga who garnered 54% and 45% respectively will be on the ballot paper in the repeat elections.

All these are taking place against a backdrop of an election that saw the death of 37 people, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Among those who died are a six-month-old baby and an eight-year-old girl.

The turn of event has put Kenya in an uncertain path as it navigates democracy with the provision of the Constitution 2010.

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has issued a statement on the political development in Kenya, saying the AU is ready to assist and "take any initiative deemed appropriate to facilitate the peaceful conclusion of the electoral process".

The Chairperson has called "on all stakeholders to exercise leadership during this crucial period of Kenya's democracy to ensure the successful completion of the electoral process and contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Kenya and the preservation of peace and stability in the country".


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