The latest attempt to halt tomorrow’s presidential election re-run in Kenya has seemingly been thrown out. Following a petition made by human rights activists in Kenya, the nation’s Supreme Court judges announced a last-minute hearing today to decide if the elections would hold or not. Today’s hearing was supposed to halt tomorrow’s elections on the argument that Kenya was not ready for the re-run election. The petition also declares that even if the election held, would not be a free and fair one. However, today’s hearing came to an end before it started as the quorum of judges required to start proceedings was short by about four judges.
Kenya held its presidential elections in August, which resulted in a win for its incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta at the expense of his major opposition and frequent presidential candidate, 72-year-old Raila Odinga. However, the election was annulled by the Supreme Court in September after evidence showed that there had been “irregularities and legalities”. That made it the first time in Africa a court challenge, initiated by an opposition party against a presidential election result, was actually achieved. A re-run election was announced for the 26th of October, 2017.
However, following the Supreme Court ruling, many things were seemingly set in motion to stop the election from happening. First, Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, decided to withdraw from the elections, claiming that the election is a sham and would not represent the will of the people. Ironically, he submitted the petition to the Supreme Court asking for the election re-run. Then, soon after this, one of the top officials in Kenya’s electoral commission, IEBC, Roselyn Akombe, resigned and fled Kenya, also maintaining “the commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election”, and that she also fled because of threats on her life. One of the judges originally set to appear in today’s ruling had one of her bodyguards shot yesterday, and hence, was absent at the ruling.
All these could inadvertently give President Uhuru Kenyatta a clear run to a second term in office. The man, whose father was the first president of Kenya, has seemingly been gifted the presidency by his biggest opposition. Kenyatta won the original election with about 54% of the total votes, against Odinga’s 45%, with the remaining 1% shared by the other 6 candidates also vying for the post. Kenyan elections are usually divided along ethnic lines, and following his withdrawal, Odinga’s base may boycott tomorrow’s elections, thereby reducing turnout tomorrow.
Already, ballot papers are being delivered for tomorrow’s election, and barring any last-minute changes, will hold. Odinga’s withdrawal, in truth, would serve no purpose but one; chiefly to produce an incendiary effect on his base. He allegedly called for protests on the re-run election day when he withdrew, but now has told his supporters to stay away. However, there are still rumours protests will hold all over Kenya tomorrow, even more than those that have happened since Odinga first announced his withdrawal.
While the different challenges to the election re-run since it was announced are many, tomorrow’s possible disruption could result in another election irregularity. Kenya is no stranger to election violence, and tomorrow’s elections might not buck the trend. Odinga seems to be applying a delay tactic to the elections. However, all calculations turn to an inevitable victory for Uhuru Kenyatta.