Raila boycott threat may plunge country into crisis, experts warn

NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga

Threats by NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga to boycott the October 17 repeat polls could plunge the country into a crisis.

Such a move, experts say, will throw the country into a constitutional and legal quagmire given that the law does not espouse a situation where one candidate withdraws from the polls after their gazzetement.

The decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to gazette only Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta as candidates for the repeat polls and lock out six others may have handed the NASA team the key to either participate in the polls or not.

According to article 186 of the Constitution, if only one candidate is nominated, that candidate shall be declared elected. However, both the Constitution and laws governing elections do not anticipate a scenario where when there are only two candidates nominated and one pulls out, and how to address such a situation.

“We haven’t thought about that (boycott) as a commission but I believe we are bound by the court directive that elections should be repeated,” said IEBC Vice Chairman Connie Maina.

Bobby Mkangi, a member of the Committee of Experts (CoE) that drafted the 2010 Constitution, and former IEBC commissioner Thomas Letangule argue that legally, there will be nothing to stop IEBC from conducting the polls, although the legitimacy of the winner will be put to question.

“If NASA says its withdrawing, that will be an announcement to its supporters not to participate. But IEBC will proceed to organise the polls. Technically, the remaining candidate will be declared winner but the impact will be more political and social. The elections will be discredited and the outcome and the government that will be formed will suffer from legitimacy,” Mkangi says.

He cited the case of Zimbabwe where opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) boycotted the 2008 election. The move created a major political crisis that ended up with the appointment of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister a year later in a negotiated deal.

Goodwill

“If NASA withdraws, IEBC will proceed with the polls since the candidates’ names were already gazetted and ballot papers printed. But will the elections take place in NASA strongholds? I doubt,” said Letangule.

If NASA supporters do not turn up to vote or IEBC is prevented from conducting elections in some parts of the country, then the credibility of that election will be put to question.

Although NASA insists it is not withdrawing but only wants an election that meets the standard prescribed by the Constitution and in compliance with the Supreme Court directive, there are fears among Jubilee leaders they want to throw the country into a crisis.

NASA Secretariat CEO Norman Magaya said Raila will not withdraw from the polls since “there will be no elections” if their conditions are not met.

NASA Principal and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula cautioned that they would not participate in an exercise that would be manipulated to achieve predetermined results.

“We have insisted that that unless the IEBC chairman shows good will by telling us what they have resolved as per our demands, we will not to attend their meetings. We will need talks about talks before talks. It is not business as usual,” said Wetang’ula.

Yesterday, Deputy President William Ruto said NASA leaders had sensed defeat and are agitating for a coalition government through its demands ahead of the polls. “They want us to negotiate how to share power and short change Kenyans on the impending elections,” he said.