Kenya Opposition Sets Conditions for Taking Part in New Vote

  • Opposition leader demands electoral commission overhaul
  • Electoral body has set presidential-election rerun for Oct. 17

Kenyan Court Nullifies Vote, Orders New Election

Kenya’s main opposition alliance demanded the electoral commission be overhauled and said it wants guarantees on fairness in place before it agrees to participate in a rerun of last month’s annulled presidential election.

The five-party National Super Alliance urged the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission to remove six key officials from its secretariat, including Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba, before the vote is held on Oct. 17, alliance leader Raila Odinga said Tuesday. Its list of demands includes creating a committee with representatives from the main parties to oversee the preparation, management and conduct of the electoral process, he said.

“There will be no election on the 17th unless the specific demands herein are honored,” Odinga said in an emailed statement. “We demand nothing less than a fully transparent and accountable electoral process.”

Kenya’s Supreme Court on Sept. 1 upheld the alliance’s complaint that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in last month’s vote was aided by rigging. The shock decision marked the first time a court in Africa has overturned the results of a presidential election. The country is the world’s largest shipper of black tea and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Co.

The IEBC named a six-member team to run the fresh poll, the commission’s chairman, Wafula Chebukati, said late Tuesday in a statement. The group will be led by a project coordinator, Marjan Hussein Marjan, and includes new heads of operations, logistics, training, legal, information technology and the national tallying center, he said.

Investor Anxiety

“I wish to assure all Kenyans of my commitment to ensure that this fresh presidential election is done in accordance with the constitution, the relevant laws and that it reflects the sovereign will of the Kenyan people,” Chebukati said.

The commission had said on Monday that it would revise the “operational and procedural requirements for the conduct of the fresh election” soon. The authority is awaiting details of the court’s judgment “to identify areas that require improvement in the management of the fresh election,” it said.

The Kenyan shilling has weakened every day since the ruling and closed at 103.25 against the dollar on Tuesday. The benchmark FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index rose 0.4 percent, ending five straight days of declines.

An impasse may develop between Odinga and Kenyatta on the issue before the election rerun, said Ahmed Salim, a Dubai-based vice president at Teneo Strategies.

“With the commission’s credibility damaged by last Friday’s ruling, the opposition could over the coming days push for some changes in the election managers,” Salim said. “A stand-off on this issue is expected between Kenyatta’s and Odinga’s teams given that the president and several members of the government have vowed to fight any attempt to remove IEBC officials from office.”

‘Irregularities, Illegalities’

Anxiety about the elections weighed on business confidence last month and contributed to a drop in Stanbic Bank Kenya’s purchasing managers’ index to the lowest on record in August, said Jibran Qureishi, East Africa economist at Stanbic Holdings Ltd. Previous votes in Kenya have been marked by unrest, including in 2007 when a disputed election triggered two months of fighting that left more than 1,100 people dead.

Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga said “irregularities and illegalities” had been committed by the electoral body in the vote. The court’s more detailed written judgment is expected within 21 days of the ruling.

Kenyatta and his ruling Jubilee party vowed to resist all opposition attempts for management changes at the electoral body. The president reiterated Tuesday that while he respects the court, he didn’t agree with its ruling.

“This case was nothing but thuggery,” Kenyatta said at a campaign rally on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The IEBC also said Monday that Kenyatta, Odinga and their running mates will be the only candidates for the poll -- a declaration that the opposition leader also rejected.

It is “an erroneous interpretation of the law that only two candidates will participate in a fresh election,” Odinga said.

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