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Odinga rejects Ruto’s victory in Kenya’s presidential elections

Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga is set to take legal action to challenge William Ruto’s narrow election victory, adding to uncertainty following a poll to determine Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor.

On Monday, Wafula Chebukati, head of Kenya’s Electoral Commission, said Ruto, the deputy president and self-made businessman, won 50.5 percent of the vote, while veteran opposition leader Odinga won 48.8 percent.

“The figures announced by Mr Chebukati are null and void and must be overturned by a court. In our view, there is no such thing as a legitimately and validly declared winner, nor a President-elect. Mr Chebukati’s announcement to announce a winner is a nullity,” said Odinga, who was joined by Kenyatta. This was his fifth attempt at the presidency.

“We are pursuing constitutional and lawful channels and procedures to invalidate Mr. Chebukati’s unlawful and unconstitutional statement.”

Before Monday’s announcement, scuffles broke out at the national census center. Four of the seven election commissioners left the premises to hold a press conference elsewhere, where the results were denied. For security reasons, international observers left the room before the results were announced. Ruto called Chebukati a “hero” on Monday night.

Kenyan election commissioners, from left, Justus Nyang'aya, Francis Wanderi, Juliana Cherera and Irene Masit

Kenyan Electoral Commissioners (from left) Justus Nyang’aya, Francis Wanderi, Juliana Cherera and Irene Masit announce they cannot support the election results © AP

Minutes before Odinga’s speech on Tuesday, Juliana Cherera, deputy chair of Kenya’s Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission and one of the dissident commissioners, condemned the counting process as “opaque and unable to earn our ownership and trust,” adding that the “gathering resulted in a total of over 100 percent”.

“We don’t know the actual numbers,” said Francis Wanderi, another commissioner. “The final balance sheet was not brought to the attention of the Commission.”

But earlier on Tuesday, an independent monitoring group said its parallel voting table – based on data from over 5,000 monitors deployed in Kenya’s 47 counties – “confirms official findings”.

Ruth self-identified as a “Hustler” contestant, which challenges the established political dynasties represented by Odinga and Kenyatta. As congratulatory messages for Ruto arrived from the leaders of South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Somalia, the Commonwealth Election Observer Group said it was “concerned by allegations of a lack of transparency at the IEBC” made by the breakaway commissioners and others, and strongly recommended “that these allegations be addressed urgently and satisfactorily by the appropriate authority.”

The US Embassy in Nairobi called on “all parties to work together to peacefully resolve any remaining concerns regarding this election through existing dispute resolution mechanisms.”

Odinga’s legal team has until next Monday to file its challenge, after which the judges have two weeks to render their verdict. A successful petition would nullify the presidential election and require a new vote within 60 days of the verdict.

There is a precedent. 2017 the Supreme Court East Africa’s dominant economy annulled the result of this year’s presidential election, fought between Kenyatta and Odinga, because of “irregularities” and “illegalities” in the counting of the votes, prompting a rerun.

“Supreme Court justices have demonstrated a high degree of independence in recent years, making it difficult to retrieve the court’s outcome,” Eurasia said in a note. Last year Kenya’s High Court pushed back against the president’s proposed constitutional changes, which critics described as a veiled attempt by Kenyatta to consolidate political dynasties through Odinga, effectively excluding Ruto. “The political pressure will be immense in the coming weeks,” Eurasia said.

There were fears that the 2022 election could cause unrest on the scale of 2007 and 2017, when 1,200 and 100 respectively were killed in post-election violence. But for now, the streets have remained mostly peaceful.

“The results are good, I think they were fair as they came live,” said Lucy Wangoi, a 32-year-old businesswoman and Ruto voter. “I don’t think anything happened that shouldn’t have happened. I am very happy about the victory.”

Odinga supporters remain skeptical. “They have already stolen elections from Baba [Odinga] often it’s not fair, there’s something going on here,” said Boniface Wambua, an Odinga supporter.

https://www.ft.com/content/1abc9fbe-8395-4ac4-8a85-65426a51223d Odinga rejects Ruto’s victory in Kenya’s presidential elections

Adam Bradshaw

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