Kenya

An Election Delay Can Help Avert Kenya’s Crisis - Africa Briefing N°132

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What’s happening? On 26 October, Kenya is scheduled to hold repeat presidential elections following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the previous vote held on 8 August. Proceeding in current conditions risks escalating the political crisis.

Why is the vote contentious? President Uhuru Kenyatta says he is ready for the vote, while opposition leader Raila Odinga refuses to participate, citing the lack of electoral reform since 8 August. The election commission chairman has said that he cannot deliver a credible election on 26 October.

Why does it matter? The risk of clashes between rival supporters or between security forces and protesters seeking to block the vote is high. New violence would be devastating for Kenya, the economic hub of East Africa.

What should be done? The election commission chairman should petition the Supreme Court for an election postponement of 30 to 45 days, which would permit a delay without violating the constitution. All parties should contest the new vote, accept the outcome or pursue complaints through the courts.

I. Overview

The rerun of Kenya’s presidential elections, scheduled for 26 October, threatens to provoke a serious political crisis. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has declared he will not participate; an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioner recently resigned and fled the country; and the IEBC chairman has signalled that he cannot guarantee a credible vote within the expected timeline.
The risk of deadly clashes between the two main parties’ supporters, or between security forces and groups seeking to block the vote, is high. Proceeding under current conditions would deepen Kenya’s ethnic cleavages and prolong a stalemate that has already claimed dozens of lives and come at a high economic cost. Kenyan institutions and political leaders should consider a short delay; Odinga in turn should pledge to take part; business elites as well as Kenya’s neighbours and donors should help promote such an outcome.