Suspense in Kenya’s 2017 Election Re-run

This is a brief update on the the status of Kenya’s presidential election re-run, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 26. 

Here are two main facts to know, followed by a little more background information. 

  • Yesterday, Oct. 23, the International Crisis Group issued a brief calling on the Supreme Court to delay the election for at least 30 days.
  • Today, Oct. 24, the Supreme Court announced it will hold a hearing about the election. It will do so tomorrow, the day before the scheduled national vote.

Brief background: On September 1, the Kenyan Supreme Court overturned the election of Uhuru Kenyatta in the two-round presidential vote in August. The court mandated a re-run of the poll because of irregularities in the vote counting process (\not because of any particular finding of cheating). Kenyatta, who’s the incumbent, is widely expected to win. 

The re-run process has been politicized and very contentious. Kenya’s legislature has changed the law to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn elections in the future. A member of the electoral commission has fled to the US in fear for her safety. Probably most importantly, the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, says he will not participate in the new vote, which is, again, scheduled the day after tomorrow, because of concerns it will merely repeat the previous procedural problems. 

You can read the Crisis Group’s note here. Here’s a direct cut-and-paste of its Executive Summary:

  • “What’s happening?  On 26 October, Kenya is scheduled to hold repeat presidential elections following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the previous vote held on 8 August. Proceeding in current conditions risks escalating the political crisis.

  • “Why is the vote contentious?  President Uhuru Kenyatta says he is ready for the vote, while opposition leader Raila Odinga refuses to participate, citing the lack of electoral reform since 8 August. The election commission chairman has said that he cannot deliver a credible election on 26 October.

  • “Why does it matter?  The risk of clashes between rival supporters or between security forces and protesters seeking to block the vote is high. New violence would be devastating for Kenya, the economic hub of East Africa.

  • “What should be done? The election commission chairman should petition the Supreme Court for an election postponement of 30 to 45 days, which would permit a delay without violating the constitution. All parties should contest the new vote, accept the outcome or pursue complaints through the courts.”

Here is the New York Times’s note on the newly-scheduled Supreme Court session:

Jina Moore is the new NYT correspondent in Nairobi. African political science Twitter views her as a big improvement on the previous journalist. So do I.

As always, I’m hoping for a peaceful, life-saving, and just resolution to the political uncertainty.

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