ASKiNGRADiO.com | News| Africa| Kenya Elections
Kenya’s presidential election rerun is set to go ahead on tomorrow after the country’s supreme court failed to consider a petition to postpone the highly contentious vote.
Amid high tension and fears of violence, only two supreme court judges attended a hearing on Wednesday morning – three short of the five judges needed for a quorum.
“This matter cannot be heard this morning,” David Maraga, the Chief Justice, told reporters in Nairobi, the capital. Elections will now proceed, an election board lawyer said afterwards.
Tomorrow’s disputed election was called after the supreme court annulled an election held in August due to procedural irregularities. The August presidential election was won by the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, by a margin of nine percentage points.
Opposition leaders have said they do not believe the rerun will be fair and have called on supporters to stay at home, while Kenyatta has repeatedly said voting should go ahead.
The petition, filed by three Kenyan voters, including a human rights activist, argued that officials could not ensure the polls were free, fair and credible. The failure of the supreme court to even hear the case will further polarise sentiments in east Africa’s biggest economy.
Senior members of the Electoral Commission have expressed deep concerns about the forthcoming polls. One went on leave last week and another fled to the US citing threats to her personal security.
Many observers and experts have been calling for a further delay to allow tensions to ease and essential preparations to be completed.
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Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad and unable to return in time, and a third was unable to come to court after her bodyguard was shot and injured on Wednesday night by unidentified gunmen.
The attack has been viewed by some commentators as a bid to intimidate the judiciary. The reasons for the absence of two other judges were not clear.
A lawyer for the election board said the supreme court statement meant the elections would proceed. “It means elections are on tomorrow. There is no order stopping the election,” lawyer Paul Muite told the Kenyan television station Citizen TV.
Protesters in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, a stronghold of the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), blocked roads with boulders, sticks, and burning tires after news of the supreme court statement was broadcast.
Raila Odinga, the leader of Nasa, whose legal challenge led to the decision to void the August poll but who has sworn to boycott the coming election, has said he will announce “a way forward” before voting actually starts.
“We are not fools … On Wednesday, October 25 … I will tell you how we will slay the cat,” the 72 year old veteran politician, who has lost in four elections, told supporters last week.
Nairobi city officials ruled that a Wednesday rally due to be led by Odinga at the capital’s Uhuru Park was illegal because Nasa had not followed proper procedures.
Adding to the uncertainty was a high court ruling that invalidated the appointments of constituency electoral agents for Thursday’s vote.
There will be fewer international observers than in August after the European Union mission reduced its presence, citing “the extreme tension, disruptions of polling preparations, and strong criticism that has been made of the international community.”
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Odinga’s claims of vote-rigging after his defeat in 2007 elections prompted rioting and retaliation by security forces, which tipped the country into its worst crisis for decades. About 1,200 people were killed in the ethnic violence that followed.
Many Kenyans say that the potential for violence is reduced now because the country has learned from its earlier traumatic experiences; though 37 people were killed in protests after the August poll, widespread clashes have been avoided.
There have been near-daily opposition protests against both the election body and the draft electoral law, which the president has yet to sign.
Both Odinga and Kenyatta, who have been in power since 2013, have mixed uncompromising rhetoric with more conciliatory words. Kenyatta, 55, called for a weekend of “reconciliation and prayer” but warned that there would be no tolerance of “those who thrive in chaos and relish anarchy”.
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