Kenya's Vote Preparations Thrown Into Doubt by Court Ruling

  • Electoral body may appeal nullification of ballot contract
  • Ruling follows revisions to election preparation timetable

Kenya’s preparations for general elections in August face “a period of uncertainty” after the High Court nullified a ballot-paper printing contract, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said.

The commission may appeal the ruling over the contract that had been awarded to Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Co., IEBC spokesman Andrew Limo said in a statement e-mailed Monday. Kenya is scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections on Aug. 8.

“The decision sends the preparations for the general election into a period of uncertainty,” Limo said. “The commission wishes to assure the country that it will do everything possible to ensure that we have credible elections.”

Kenya has faced questions about the credibility of its past two elections, with a dispute over the outcome of a presidential vote in December 2007 triggering two months of ethnic violence that left at least 1,100 people dead. Preparations for this year’s ballot have already been set back by parliament’s delay in appointing new commissioners, after the main opposition party accused the electoral body of mishandling the last election in 2013. The IEBC has revised its timetable twice in the past three months to carry out tasks including acquiring biometric voter-registration kits and conducting a voter-registration campaign.

Any lack of trust in the electoral body “doesn’t bode well for the elections in August,” said Ahmed Salim, an analyst at Teneo Strategy in Dubai. “The court ruling deals a double blow to the IEBC’s preparations. It comes at a time when they are failing to meet their voter-registration targets. They will need to get some trust and confidence back to the public.”

Market Uncertainty

Anxiety about instability around this year’s ballot contributed to a drop in Kenya’s main stock index to a four-year low last month, while the shilling has weakened 1.1 percent against the dollar so far this year.

Limo said while the ruling was “a setback, it would not affect the overall timelines” and the elections are still expected to go ahead on Aug. 8.

“We started early and we expected that procurement would pose some challenges,” he said by phone from Nairobi on Tuesday. “We have some time to catch up.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking a second term in this year’s ballot, while opposition parties are considering forming a broad coalition that will field a single candidate to run against him.

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