To the surprise of many, Kenya’s supreme court overturned the country’s Aug. 8 presidential election, setting the stage for a rarely-seen voting rematch in Africa or anyplace.
In its ruling, the court concluded the election “was not conducted in accordance with the constitution,” rendering the declared results “invalid, null and void.”
Within the next 60 days, incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta will face his rival Raila Odinga—again.
Odinga had petitioned the court to overturn the result, claiming the electoral system was rigged in Kenyatta’s favor. Other irregularities included the torture and murder of a top election official, the deportation of two foreign Odinga advisers, agents being denied entry to polling stations, names missing from the register and electronic voter identification devices failing.
The successful petition could unleash a flood of new petitions from the thousands of candidates who lost other races on Aug 8. More than 14,000 candidates ran for about 1,900 electoral seats.
After pulling ahead from what was earlier described as a close race, President Kenyatta declared he would be willing to step down if he lost and called on Odinga to do the same.
“Let us accept the will of the people,” he said. “I am willing myself to accept the will of the people, so let them too, adding “in a true democracy, all Kenyans are winners.”
But he changed his tune after the court threw out the poll results, calling the judges “crooks” and reminding supporters that he is still the incumbent president.
“We shall revisit this thing. We clearly have a problem,” Kenyatta said, referring to the judiciary. “Who even elected you? Were you [elected]? We have a problem and we must fix it.” His lawyer said only a “third world court” would make such a decision.
Odinga for his part is going after the international election observers who endorsed the Aug. 8 poll. Some 400 election monitors from the African Union, the European Union, and the United States, including former US secretary of state John Kerry, called the vote “free, fair and credible.” Their views were widely echoed in the media.
After the high court came to the exact opposite conclusion, Odinga released a statement: “With this courageous verdict we put on trial the international observers who moved fast to sanitize fraud. Their role must be reexamined.”
Kenya’s Standard Digital online news site chimed in: The New York Times, they said, has found itself with egg on its face. Later, the Times owned up as did the Financial Times, hitting out at the international observers who approved the polls as free and credible. w/pix of Pres. U. Kenyatta criticizing Supreme Court Judge w Deputy Pres. W. Ruto at right