Kenya’s High Court Tosses Presidential Election Result and Calls for New Vote
It shows the stability of the democracy.
Kenyans will once again go to the polls to vote for a new president following the Supreme Court’s rejection of the presidential election that took place Aug. 8.
The decision comes after the election, which gave the presidency to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, sparked protests by supporters of the opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Although the initial vote had been widely praised by international election monitoring groups for being fairly and freely conducted, the Supreme Court ruled four to two that the country’s election commission had failed “to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution."
The Supreme Court will specify their findings within 21 days and has called for a new vote to be held within 60 days, but they emphasized that there was no evidence of a rigged vote, which Odinga had vehemently accused Kenyatta’s supporters of orchestrating.
Instead, there were “irregularities” that suggest the election commission should be overhauled before the next election, the court found.
The commission's chairman Wafula Chebukati said that there will be personnel changes ahead of the next vote and invited prosecutions of any staff found to have violated laws.
President Kenyatta called on his supporters to honor the ruling and be happy that the government’s checks and balances are working.
"[It’s] important to respect the rule of law even if you disagree with the Supreme Court ruling," he said in a televised address.
"Your neighbour will still be your neighbour, regardless of what has happened,” he said. “My primary message today to every single Kenyan is peace. Let us be people of peace."
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Opposition leader Odinga, meanwhile, reveled in the results.
Following the initial vote on Aug. 8, Odinga loudly denounced the election, which had Uhuru ahead by more than 1.4 million votes.
Widespread unrest then swept across the country as Odinga’s supporters protested the outcome. In the ensuing clashes with security forces, at least 28 people died.
Kenya is no stranger to contested elections erupting into violence. In 2007, more than 1,300 people were killed and 600,000 displaced following an uprising disputing that year’s election results. In 2013, voting machines throughout the country malfunctioned, inviting accusations of fraud.
That history could be why president Kenyatta is encouraging his supporters to simply register their dissent during the next vote and put their faith in the integrity of the system.
That sort of democratic stability is, in itself, a victory.