Kenya politics: Quick View - Opposition turns to the courts

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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The opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) will challenge the results of the August 8th presidential election in court, thereby reversing its decision not to take legal action.


Nasa and its presidential candidate, Raila Odinga-who lost to the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta (of the Jubilee Party), by a margin of 44.9% to 54.2%-believe the results announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) were manipulated by computer hacking. This led to sporadic clashes between the police and opposition supporters, and a rise in tension. Nasa initially spurned legal action, heightening the risk of further violence, because of the Supreme Court's dismissal of an opposition petition against the 2013 president election. However, Nasa has now backtracked, in a positive move for democracy, and will submit an affidavit to the Supreme Court by a deadline of August 18th. This will extend the period of uncertainty surrounding the election-by pushing the president's planned inauguration day from August 29th to September 12th, for example-but fighting the outcome in the courts, rather than on the streets, poses far less risk to Kenya's stability. The legal challenge will last no more than 14 days (including weekends), according to a strict timetable laid down by the Supreme Court in advance of the election. A ruling by the chief justice, David Maraga, can therefore be expected by September 1st.

We do not currently believe there are sufficient grounds for Nasa to win their case against the presidential election result, in the absence of any conclusive evidence to back up their claims of manipulation. However, the IEBC may not have adhered in full to the prescribed procedures for transmitting and announcing the results, and disputes about the existence or otherwise of key paper documents remain unsettled. These failings may have more to do with weaknesses in the capacity of the IEBC, rather than fraud, but they nonetheless give Nasa some grounds for suspicion. A review of the process by the Supreme Court is therefore appropriate, as well as constitutional, especially given the persistence of significant tensions. Moreover, the opposition may be better organised than in 2013, when the late submission of their evidence counted against them.

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