Kenyan Election Commission Says Presidential Vote Will Go AheadBy and
Opposition challenges vote commission’s interpretation of law
Rerun of annulled presidential election scheduled for Oct. 26
Kenya’s electoral commission said a rerun of the country’s annulled presidential election will go ahead on Oct. 26, as the main opposition disputed the authority’s assertion that its candidate has yet to withdraw from the race.
National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga, who announced on Tuesday that he’s pulling out, must fill in a so-called Form 24A to formalize his exit from the poll, the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission said Wednesday in a statement emailed from the capital, Nairobi. The alliance said the commission is misinterpreting the law.
“Our withdrawal took effect on Tuesday and is irreversible,” Norman Magaya, chief executive officer of the alliance’s secretariat, said in a phone interview on Thursday. “We are officially disengaged from this election. What is clear is that there will be no election on Oct. 26.”
Kenya is holding fresh elections after the Supreme Court annulled the Aug. 8 vote because it wasn’t conducted in line with the constitution. Odinga sent preparations for the ballot into disarray when he announced his withdrawal, citing the commission’s refusal to make changes to its personnel and processes to ensure a credible vote. Kenyan stocks have fallen the most in Africa since the annulment and yields on its Eurobonds have jumped.
Nasa, as the opposition alliance is known, has argued that by withdrawing, Kenya is required to hold fresh nominations and a new election. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was declared the victor of the August ballot, has insisted the vote should go ahead.
Magaya questioned the fact that the IEBC’s statement wasn’t signed by Chairman Wafula Chebukati, saying the omission suggested it wasn’t backed by all of the commission’s staff.
Commissioners within the IEBC who lean toward Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party may be trying to isolate Chebukati to ensure events go their way, Peter Wanyande, a professor of political science at the University of Nairobi, said by phone.
“If the chairman doesn’t sign the statement, as the returning officer, then it’s not valid,” Wanyande said. “The IEBC is under siege and the chairman is isolated. Jubilee dictates terms to the IEBC, which now makes it very difficult for them to organize the election.”
Neither IEBC spokesman Andrew Limo nor Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju answered two phone calls each seeking comment.
The commission also announced that the names of independent candidates previously excluded from the rerun would now be included on ballot papers for the new vote, in line with a High Court ruling on Wednesday. That judgment found in favor of independent candidate Ekuru Aukot’s bid to be admitted as a candidate for the vote.
The opposition’s withdrawal has clouded an already uncertain outlook for Kenyan growth, which is slowing after a prolonged drought. East Africa’s biggest economy and the world’s largest tea exporter, Kenya is a regional hub for companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Electric Co.
Kenyan stocks have fallen 5.6 percent since the Sept. 1 annulment, the biggest decline in Africa and the third-largest drop globally, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yields on its Eurobonds due in 2024 have risen 44 basis points in that period, to 6.46 percent on Wednesday.
“The commission appreciates the anxiety across the country following the numerous legal interpretations in this matter,” the IEBC said. “We appeal for calm and dialogue among all players to ensure that elections are successfully held and for the country to move forward.”