Kenya third country in the world and first in Africa to annul a presidential election

NASA supporters celebrate in Kibera and Ngong road a¬fter the Supreme Court nullified presidential elections. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenya on Friday made history in the electoral sphere as the only fourth country to have a presidential election nullified by the courts.

Other countries that have had presidential elections nullified are Austria and the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Austria is part of the European Union.

Ukraine’s Supreme Court also annulled presidential elections held in November 2004. The judges ruled that the Central Election Commission acted improperly by declaring the Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich the winner, and ordered a run-off.

In Africa, the Supreme Court ruling declaring President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election null and void was the first of its kind.

Poll tainted

The Maldives, a South Asian island nation in the Indian Ocean of less than 500,000 inhabitants had its presidential election nullified when four judges of a seven-member Supreme Court ruled that the election of September 7, 2013, was too tainted to determine the winner.

Like in the Kenyan case, international observers had given the election in the Maldives a clean bill of health. Fresh elections were held two months later where incumbent Mohamed Waheed Hassan came fourth. The winner Abdulla Yameen’s share of the vote rose from 30 per cent in the first round to 51 per cent.

In July 2016, Austria’s highest court annulled the election of President Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens Party who had beaten his challenger, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party by 30,863 votes, a mere one per cent. Announcing the decision, head of the constitutional court Gerhard Holzinger said: “The challenge brought by Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache against the 22 May election has been upheld.”

He added: “The decision I am announcing today has no winner and no loser, it has only one aim: to strengthen trust in the rule of law and democracy.”

President Bellen eventually won the fresh election that was also held within 60 days after beating the petitioner with a clear margin. Likewise, the decision in Kenya has neither winner nor loser, according to pundits.

Yesterday’s ruling by Chief Justice David Maraga was ice breaking in a country where elections have always been turbulent political affairs, save for that of December 2002 that saw Narc dislodge independence party Kanu from power. Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner with a landslide victory against Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kanu candidate who had been handpicked by former President Daniel arap Moi who had just retired.

The subsequent election in 2007 pushed Kenya to its nadir when President Kibaki’s disputed re-election ignited post-election violence resulting in over 1,300 deaths, most of them killed by police bullets.

Yesterday’s pace-setting ruling by the Supreme Court seemed to midwife the advent of a new Kenya as both President Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga exhorted their supporters to remain calm and observe peace ahead of a re-run in 60 days.

“It is a ruling with which I do not agree with. But I accept the court’s verdict. Let us all uphold peace and tranquillity for the sake of our great nation,” said President Kenyatta in a speech to the nation hours after the ruling.

Raila condemned the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and called for the prosecution of its commissioners.

“We have no faith at all in the electoral commission, they have committed criminal acts. Most of them actually ‘belong to jail’ and therefore we are going to ask for their prosecution,” he said.