With only days to go, the Kenyan presidential re-run is in doubt. Raila Odinga of the NASA (National Super Alliance) coalition, allegedly intent on derailing democracy, has withdrawn from the election claiming it will not be free and fair. Political tensions are rising and the Kenyan economy is sliding, a consequence of the August election result contested by Odinga, the leader of Opposition. The Kenyan Supreme Court declared the 8 August presidential election to be null and void, citing “irregularities and illegalities” in the vote reporting process. President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party) graciously relinquished his victory and agreed to a new poll that shifted from 17-26 October, thought to be because OT-Morpho, the French security company managing the transmission of election results, needed more time to prepare. This week the electoral commission wrote to Odinga informing that it could not meet his demands for changes in the IEBC procedures, including appointing a firm other than Dubai’s Al Ghurair to print ballot papers, that NASA claim to have printed a million ballot papers more than the number of registered voters, and the removal of IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba and other IEBC officials.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati wrote to Ezra Chiloba identifying some failings that matched with some of the Opposition’s allegations during the court proceedings. Chebukati questioned why 10,336+ out of 40,883 polling stations sent text results without the accompanying relevant forms being simultaneously digitally transmitted. Apparently, this is equivalent to 4.6 million voters circa 1/4 of the 19.6 million registered. Allegedly, 595 polling stations failed or otherwise refused to send results at all and fake usernames/ passwords were used for nearly 10,000 transactions. Chebukati said a “porous file server system” was used to transmit tally sheets. He was critical of the expensive satellite phones used which lacked the necessary phone network for transmission of scanned tally sheets. Chebukati also questioned the efficacy of the biometric voter ID kits which might have led to falsifications. The IEBC Commission rebutted all Chebukati’s concerns via a Press Release.
Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Kenya and KEPSA business leaders have both expressed their concern. In a joint statement, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners of 13 democratic nations and the European Union stated their anxiety about the deterioration in the political atmosphere and the impact this has had on preparations for the election.
The diplomats confirmed their past and present neutrality and their support for Kenya’s Constitution, laws and institutions. They wrote the draft “Election Laws Amendment Bill, for example, puts at risk the IEBC’s ability to conduct a better election within the mandated 60-day timeline, and unnecessarily increases political tensions” and warned it would “be impossible to remake the IEBC in a way that satisfies all political demands, and everyone should refrain from undermining it”. The diplomats have urged constructive dialogue and for all parties to reject violence, for security services to exercise restraint and for the media to be free to cover the election independently and without intimidation.
They warned of “the importance of foreign investment, trade, and tourism for Kenya’s economic growth, jobs, and security. If the upcoming election devolves into chaos, the economy, businesses, job-holders, and families—all Kenyans—will pay a heavy price”.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) echoes these sentiments; Kenya’s economy with its advantageous strategic position in the Indo-Pacific is already anticipating a negative impact, less tourism, less work and more debt. KEPSA recommend civility, including on social media, between all groups, tribal, ethnic, institutional, corporate and religious. They insist the election must take place according to the Supreme Court’s ruling. KEPSA urge integrity of character and vision, they request politicians to look beyond the immediate and consider the national interest of Kenya in years and for generations to come, an oblique reference to the impunity of past malfeasance. They caution citizens and students not to be ‘used to break the law by politicians’.
NASA MPs and senators intend to skip the proposed election laws debate in the National Assembly and the Senate this week. Odinga has plans to rally support in London and Washington, but Uhuru Kenyatta is ready for the election on the 26 October as planned. The Constitution is clear on how the election process is conducted, but unclear as to who would be president of Kenya if Uhuru Kenyatta is not inaugurated by 1 November, the date when his current “temporary incumbency” ends. The Supreme Court might grant an extension or perhaps the National Assembly speaker, Justin Muturi, would become Acting President for a period of 90 days during which another election could be held.