Kenya Election Body Seeks to End Impasse as Vote Date Nears

Updated on
  • IEBC chair says he’ll meet president to discuss new election
  • East African nation due to hold rerun of annulled vote Oct. 26

Police stand as opposition supporters demonstrate along the streets of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on October 6, 2017.

Photographer: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

Kenya’s main opposition alliance said it had a “good meeting” with the East African nation’s electoral commission as the body tries to resolve an impasse over a rerun of a presidential vote scheduled for next week.

“We are not at liberty to tell you everything that we discussed, but I think we had a good meeting with the chairman,” opposition leader Raila Odinga told K24, a local TV channel, after talks Thursday with the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission. The IEBC’s chairman, Wafula Chebukati, said on Twitter that he’ll hold discussions with President Uhuru Kenyatta and there’ll be “a joint meeting thereafter.”

Kenya is repeating its Aug. 8 presidential election after the Supreme Court last month overturned Kenyatta’s victory, saying the vote wasn’t conducted in line with the constitution and the IEBC’s systems were “infiltrated and compromised.” Odinga withdrew from the rerun on Oct. 10, saying the commission failed to agree to reforms including changes to its staff and computer systems to ensure a credible vote.

The process was thrown into further disarray on Wednesday, when Roselyn Akombe, one of seven commissioners at the IEBC, resigned and fled the country in fear of her safety. Chebukati also said that in order for the forthcoming vote to be credible, the IEBC needs to be allowed to work independently, free from interference by political parties, and its commissioners must stop serving partisan political interests.

Markets Weaken

Uncertainty about the election has weighed on Kenya’s financial markets. The shilling closed 0.1 percent lower against the dollar at 103.60, the weakest level in two months. Shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange have fallen 8.4 percent since the August vote was annulled on Sept. 1.

Akombe sent a memorandum to Chebukati before her resignation that raised a series of concerns she had about the commission, the Nairobi-based Star newspaper reported. She queried why the body had been unable to take action against staff seen as complicit in the botched August vote, it said. She also questioned why an audit of electronic voting systems hadn’t been done, pointing out that quality assurance was also required to be done before the rerun, the paper said.

“All key issues ranging from technology to training are still being managed by the same headquarters staff whose confidence you have questioned,” the Star quoted Akombe as saying in the memorandum.

The removal of IEBC staff suspected of being complicit in the failed election is one of the key demands the opposition has made before it will agree to take part in the rerun. It’s also insisted the commission change some of the electronic systems to be used in transmitting results of the vote.

Election Petition

Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party on Thursday filed a petition at the Supreme Court seeking to have the opposition leaders found in contempt of court for trying to ensure the election doesn’t take place. Protests by opposition supporters in Nairobi and elsewhere in the country are aimed at intimidating commissioners and rendering the IEBC unable to carry out the vote, according to the court document.

Salim Lone, an adviser to Odinga, insisted Thursday that the Oct. 26 election shouldn’t go ahead.

“The Supreme Court had warned that it would not hesitate to annul the new election if it too was not free and fair, as defined by the constitution and the laws of Kenya,” he said in an emailed statement. “How will ​the court​ treat a petition challenging the outcome of an election which the IEBC chairman has in advance said cannot be free and fair? It is sheer madness to hold an election under such circumstances.”

— With assistance by Adelaide Changole

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