Showdown looms between Kenya opposition, ruling party over election board

Ballot Box
NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenya’s government will not replace the election board ahead of the new elections ordered by the Supreme Court, a presidential spokesman said on Monday, indicating a looming showdown with the opposition.

On Friday, the court annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official win in the Aug. 8 presidential polls by 1.4 million votes. The court said the board had not followed proper procedures and ordered it to hold new elections within 60 days, but did not stipulate any personnel changes.

Some Kenyans celebrated the ruling, saying it reduced the potential for a repeat of the kind of violence that followed a disputed 2007 presidential election, in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has lost the last three elections and has alleged vote-rigging after each, was among those who welcomed the court judgement. But he also called for senior officials at the election board to resign and face possible prosecution.

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Spokesmen for both the president and the election board rejected the idea of changing the entire board.

“The Supreme Court gave clear guidance on who will hold the repeat election. You cannot accept one half of the verdict of the Supreme Court and not the other,” said presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

Andrew Limo, a spokesman for the electoral board, said the situation was complicated by the fact that the court would not release its full verdict until Sept. 21.

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Judges on Friday read short remarks criticising the process but did not go into detail, saying they needed more time to consider more than 80,000 pages submitted as evidence.

“If you want to punish people, you must have a basis for it. But the only basis is the full judgement of the Supreme Court, which will not be out until 21 days,” Limo said.

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“Otherwise the commission could get into a position of defending itself in court from people who were dismissed.”

Odinga’s spokesman was not immediately available to comment. 

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