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Kenya's Unsettled Election - Analysis

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses the nation after rival William Ruto was declared president-elect on August 15. Odinga has indicated he will mount a legal challenge to the outcome.

ANALYSIS: Observers say events after announcing a victor in Kenya's August 9 general elections are ''extremely unfortunate'' and a ''misstep.'' But they contend that lessons learned from previous elections have helped maintain calm and general orderliness as the main rival pursues legal challenges.

On August 15, Wafula Chebukati, chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared deputy president William Ruto as winner of the polls with 50.49% of votes cast, while Raila Odinga garnered 48.85%.

But four IEBC commissioners led by vice chair Juliana Cherera disowned the results, citing mathematical errors and what they term ''the opaque nature of the last phase of the general elections."

Lawyer Alutalala Mukhwana, a Nairobi-based governance and political risk analyst told VOA that Raila Odinga and his Azimio party could likely build their case on accusations put forth by Cherera and others.

''The 4 commissioners claim that the National Returning Officer for the presidential election (Wafula Chebukati) did not convene a meeting of all (7) commissioners after receiving the tally of the presidential (results)," Mukhwana said.

"They also mentioned (discrepancies) with tallying of the results. We do not know the truth. The truth can only be revealed in court'', he said, noting that he ''finds the protestations by the 4 commissioners may have huge weakness, but the final arbiter is the Supreme Court of Kenya.''

Egara Kabaji, a professor at the Masinde University of Science and Technology told VOA that the message being sent to Kenyans that these results should not be trusted is a wrong one.

''Such scenarios (referring to divisions among the leadership of electoral commissioners) are the kind of things that actually throw a country into turmoil," Kabaji said, adding "Events following the announcements of results are extremely unfortunate, because we did not expect the IEBC to come up with these divisions.''

He went on to say "The question is: Do these IEBC commissioners have certain frameworks on how they should operate? How can they let Kenyans down at this hour when Kenyans have completed their constitutional duty?" he queried.

Professor Kabaji told VOA that Odinga's resolve to challenge the outcome of the elections at the country's top court is the ''best path to take'' because of the faith Kenyans have in their judiciary.

''If at all (Raila Odinga) has a strong case, and he convinces the Supreme Court that there were malpractices that made the results null and void, then you can be sure of one thing - that the Supreme Court may nullify the results'', he said, adding that ''We're going to have a grueling time at the court as lawyers defend their cases.''

This was the case in the 2017 elections, when former Prime Minister and then 4-time presidential hopeful Raila Odinga abstained from a re-run leaving president Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner.

Article 87 of Kenya's constitution stipulates that where there's a dispute in presidential elections, the dispute must be filed within 7 days from the day results were declared. The Supreme Court would have 14 days to hear and conclusively determine the dispute. If the court invalidates the outcome of the elections, it must order fresh polls be held within 60 days.

Lawyer Mukhwana said ''whichever way the dispute goes, he's confident that Kenya will remain united.''

He bases that position on ''Kenya is on a rebound and in terms of democratic space, the country continues to expand," he said. "We've made a few mistakes in the past, but thanks to growth in our literacy and the internet, the current generation of Kenyans are not in anyway about to allow politicians to screw up this progress.''