Following widespread protests in the wake of Kenya’s general election, the country’s Supreme Court has nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election and ordered another vote.
Cities across Kenya have been gripped by violent unrest as supporters of the main political opposition, the National Super Alliance Party (NASA), refused to accept the general election results as free and fair. So far, at least 24 Kenyans have died since protesting the outcome, many of them killed by security police forces.
The Supreme Court of Kenya ruled in favor of opposition parties contesting the denouement of voting day and has ordered a new election to be held within 60 days.
In what seems to be a weakening of President Kenyatta’s administration, the East African nation’s highest court declared that the voting process of August 8 this year was marred by multiple irregularities.
Post-election unrest has been part and parcel of Kenya’s democracy for decades, starting long before the days of President Kenyatta. In 2007, following a hotly contested election, Kenyans were convinced that then-President Mwai Kibaki had been elected by inappropriate means and that his opponent, Raila Odinga, was, in fact, the legitimate winner. A power-sharing agreement was signed between Kibaki and Odinga, which diffused the palpable tension.
The 72-year-old Odinga was Kenyatta’s main opponent in 2013 when he lost the presidential race. At the time, Odinga appealed the outcome in the Kenyan Supreme Court but was unsuccessful as the judiciary upheld Kenyatta’s win.
Four years later, the candidates are the same, and the post-election contestation again appeared before the bench, but the court’s ruling has changed. As tallies currently stand, Mr. Uhuru received more than the required threshold at 54 percent, whereas Mr. Odinga received 44 percent. Kenya’s opposition and its supporters believe that if the irregularities had been avoided, the outcome could have been significantly different.
Adding to the accusations of this year’s election irregularities, Kenyan opposition parties reminded the court that a high profile election official – said to be in charge of overseeing voting technologies – was murdered shortly before the election.
Moreover, the plaintiffs further alleged that due to electronic counting and transmission failures, more than seven million votes illegally went to Mr. Kenyatta’s campaign.
According to a report in the New York Times, both Kenyans and international observers had been anxiously awaiting the court’s verdict, specifically in light of past political contests.
The crux of the case against the election results rested on supposed evidence of tally manipulation. It is alleged that representatives from Kenya’s respective parties were not able to sign off on counted ballots before they were sent to the central election center in Nairobi, as per regulations. Moreover, the votes were meant to be uploaded to an online server where officials could cross-check tallies.
Following the death of Christopher Chege Msando, the official who was murdered, the electronic voting system reportedly malfunctioned, and some results were relayed to the main center via text messages.
When a week had passed without ballots being made available online, observers of Kenya’s electoral commission expressed concern about the legitimacy of the process. In its submission to Kenya’s Supreme Court, the commission claimed to have declared all ballot forms. However, the ruling states that about a third of the ballots that were received did not display the required watermarks or serial numbers, confirming suspicions that some forms had been falsified.
As far as Mr. Raila Odinga is concerned, his main objective is to ensure that Kenya’s elections are transparent, free and fair.
“I would like to be known for that. For making fundamental changes to our electoral laws so that next time round it will be a level playing field, where people will compete, the winner will be known, and there will be no disputes.”
[Featured Image by Sayyid Azim/AP Images]