Crisis Grips Kenya as Opposition Claims Presidential VictoryBy
Coalition says its candidate Odinga beat President Kenyatta
Opposition demands halt to release of unverified vote results
Kenya’s main opposition alliance demanded its candidate be declared the winner of Tuesday’s election, escalating a potentially violent political crisis in the East African nation.
The National Super Alliance obtained data showing former Prime Minister Raila Odinga won more than 8 million ballots in the vote, compared with 7.75 million for President Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, a leader of the coalition, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Nairobi. He cited figures that “confidential” sources within the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission said were on its servers.
The IEBC disputed the opposition’s figures, describing them as “plainly falsified” and containing “glaring errors.” Kenya’s “constitution and the law do not envisage a situation where a candidate in an election demands that he be declared the winner based on results that he has provided,” it said in a statement.
The alliance’s “outright declaration that Odinga is the rightful winner raises the risk of further violence in opposition areas should the IEBC confirm Kenyatta’s victory,” Emma Gordon, an analyst at Bath, England-based Verisk Maplecroft, said in an emailed note. “Supporters from both sides remain on high alert and can easily be mobilized when the final declaration is made.”
Odinga, 72, and Kenyatta, 55, are vying to lead a country that’s the world’s largest exporter of black tea and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and General Electric Co. The opposition’s dispute over the results sets the stage for a repeat of the election-related violence that has stalked Kenya since it became a multiparty democracy in 1991. In the worst outbreak, ethnic clashes left at least 1,100 people dead after a disputed 2007 vote.
Financial markets shrugged off the prospects of a disputed result, with the FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index of stocks advancing for a third straight day on Thursday to the highest level since July 2015. The yield on the nation’s Eurobonds and the shilling were little changed early on Friday.
The normally bustling streets of Nairobi, the capital and business hub of East Africa’s biggest economy, were largely deserted Thursday as residents stayed home bracing for trouble and security forces deployed in the city center.
Odinga’s main support bases include the slums around Nairobi and the western region bordering on Lake Victoria -- both areas where violence occurred after the disputed 2007 vote -- along with the coastal region around the main port of Mombasa.
The alliance, known as Nasa, sent a letter to the IEBC with its list of demands, including that the authority stop releasing unverified results, Mudavadi said. The commission’s latest tally of ballots from 40,333 of the country’s 40,883 polling stations show Kenyatta has 8.13 million votes, compared with 6.73 million for Odinga.
Odinga earlier described the results as “fake” and said hackers gained access to the election computer system by using the identity of the commission’s technology manager who was murdered in late July. The chairman of the IEBC, Wafula Chebukati, said Thursday that hackers tried and failed to breach the voting system.
The shift in focus at Thursday’s media briefing away from the hacking claims toward the results on the IEBC’s system undermined the alliance’s credibility, Gordon at Verisk said.
“It is highly improbable that Nasa would have access to the full results,” she said.
Chebukati said on Thursday that the commission expects to collect all documentation relating to the election results by midday on Friday. The papers will be used to verify the preliminary results and a final outcome will be announced thereafter, he said.
— With assistance by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura