Raila, Ruto want audit of last polls but differ on methods, end game

President William Ruto chats with Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga at the funeral service of the late Prresident Mwai Kibaki. [File, Standard]

President William Ruto and opposition chief Raila Odinga agree on two critical things – revisiting the August 9 General Election and amending the Constitution. Their methods, however, differ.

While Raila insists on auditing the election results, President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance is pursuing retribution against persons they accuse of alleged subversion.

The Azimio leader was not specific on how such an audit would be achieved constitutionally, given that the law mandates the Supreme Court to test the credibility of a presidential election.

The Supreme Court found the election to have been credible, with Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati describing the election as the most transparent in Kenya’s history. Several observers have agreed with the Supreme Court’s finding.

The opinion is divided on whether a far-reaching audit is possible, and the effect of rejecting the demand on prevailing political peace and business environment.

“The only way election results can be audited is through the courts,” constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi says, stating that only the Judiciary could order scrutiny of election materials. “Kenyans decided that whatever the Supreme Court decided in a presidential petition would be final.”

While saying Raila’s proposal is a good idea, university don Macharia Munene argues that it is possible to audit the process. “The Supreme Court only said that Ruto won. But Kenyans want two know what happened at Bomas,” Prof Munene says.

Kenya witnessed such scrutiny, outside the court framework, in the wake of the disputed 2007 presidential election. An inquiry by the Justice Johann Kriegler-led Independent Review Commission found the election to have been deeply flawed to the extent that it was impossible to determine who won.

Prof Munene argues for a Kriegler-type commission that will investigate everything that happened in and around the presidential election.

“The Kriegler process was triggered by the post-election violence and every process then was constitutionalised,” Mkangi adds, saying that Raila’s task is to convince Kenyans that the elections warrant deeper scrutiny. “The question is whether it would be a judicial or political process.” 

He further argues that anyone could examine the election processes and come up with their opinion. “Constitutionally, there is no other avenue besides the Supreme Court.” Political processes have generally been subjective and if such a process is possible, it will unlikely change the perceptions held by the competing sides about the credibility of the election.

Since the August 9 election, revelations about private meetings between politicians and the electoral commission’s officials have been made, more of which could come out with further scrutiny.

The Justice Aggrey Muchelule tribunal investigating the conduct of IEBC commissioner Irene Masit has brought to light the alleged meetings.

Politicians allied to Raila, such as former Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju have faced numerous accusations of trying to influence the outcome of the elections, claims he has denied.

In an interview that aired on Citizen TV on Tuesday, the Azimio leader defended his allies for holding the meetings, saying they had been interested in finding out the truth about the August 9 election.

“The politicians were justified to visit these commissioners because they (commissioners) were saying No. Our people were actually justified because they wanted to find out the truth. The results had already been announced by Chebukati. People wanted to know what actually transpired,” Raila said.

Despite the Supreme Court verdict, the ODM leader believes he was cheated out of the presidency. The president, on the other hand, believes that attempts to allegedly have him rigged out had been thwarted, praising Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu as heroes.

Among those he deems to have been planning the “subversion” are the former IEBC vice-chair Juliana Cherera, former commissioners Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya, as well as Masit. Courtesy of his power, the president has had more success in revisiting the August 9 election. A purge by his allies pressured three commissioners into resigning, leaving the fourth in the hands of a tribunal.

Raila’s call for an audit may not yield as much fruit, and Raila seems resigned to this reality. “We want an audit of these results so that Kenyans can have confidence come 2027, they can go to the polls, cast their votes and those votes will count,” Raila said.

With fewer allies in Parliament than the president, the path to impeachment is almost impossible.

The president and Raila are of the view that the Constitution is ripe for amendments. The Opposition leader had previously attempted a review of the law with former President Uhuru Kenyatta through the Building Bridges Initiative process.

And Ruto would chide Raila and Uhuru for being out of touch with mwananchi by prioritising constitutional changes. Three months into his presidency, he proposes to amend the Constitution and create the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition.

The president does not seem keen to have changes to the law made through a referendum, preferring to pursue the parliamentary route. Raila views Ruto’s move as attempting to make fundamental changes through the backdoor, insisting on a people-driven review through constituent assemblies starting next year.