Kenya Supreme Court to Hear Case Seeking Delay of Vote Rerun

Updated on
  • Three Kenyans want top court to demand fresh nominations, vote
  • Nation scheduled to hold presidential-ballot rerun on Oct. 26

Kenya's Supreme Court judges sit together before delivering a detailed ruling laying out their reasons for annulling the 2017 presidential election, on Sept. 20.

Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

Kenya’s top court will hear a petition on Wednesday filed by three Kenyans that seeks the cancellation of a presidential-election rerun scheduled for the following day, according to the Judiciary.

The petitioners want the Supreme Court to compel the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission to cancel the vote, Judiciary spokeswoman Lilian Mueni said by phone Tuesday from the capital, Nairobi. They also want the opposition National Super Alliance to be given the opportunity to nominate a presidential candidate afresh after its leader, Raila Odinga, withdrew from the rerun, saying the ballot wouldn’t be credible.

The matter will be heard from 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Mueni said. Chief Justice David Maraga asked the petitioners to serve the IEBC and presidential candidates by 2 p.m. local time and for the respondents to serve their responses Wednesday morning, she said. The state has declared Oct. 25 a holiday to enable Kenyans working in urban centers but registered to vote in rural areas to travel.

The Supreme Court annulled the Aug. 8 presidential election and ordered the IEBC to conduct a fresh poll within 60 days.

“The withdrawal by the ODM/Nasa candidate Rt. Hon Raila Odinga and his running mate Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka on the 10th of October 2017, triggered the vacation of the fresh presidential election date of 26th October 2017 by operation of law,” the three petitioners said in a court filing.

Deep Issues

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati has warned he can’t guarantee a credible poll with commission staff members implicated in the botched election still at work. Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba has since taken leave.

Twenty foreign missions on Monday urged Chebukati to seek an extension to the election timetable if he required more time to arrange the repeat poll. Odinga has said he’ll boycott the election until there’ve been deep reforms at the agency, while President Uhuru Kenyatta’s asked for the vote to go ahead, saying the Supreme Court ruling should be upheld.

Chebukati met Kenyatta on Monday and Odinga last week, seeking a resolution to the impasse.

“It may have been possible for the IEBC to petition the Supreme Court to the effect that it is unable to comply with the law and the court’s decision within the timeline stipulated,” Nairobi-based lawyer Karim Anjarwalla said in an emailed note. “It could also have pointed out that there would be no ‘gap’ since President Kenyatta would continue to serve as president under Article 142 of the constitution.”

If such an application was supported by the ruling Jubilee Party and the Nasa group under some sort of national accord, there’d have been the possibility the Supreme Court could have overlooked the 60-day timeline, Anjarwalla said.

Kenya’s election dispute is a quasi-political issue that can’t be settled by courts, according to Kamotho Waiganjo, a lawyer who worked for a disbanded government body that helped with the implementation of a new constitution promulgated seven years ago.

“Historically, courts have stayed away from political issues,” Waiganjo said by phone. “At some point people have to sit down and look at the underlying issues. Our problems are much deeper, including the land question and issues of political exclusion.”

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