Kenya politics: Quick View - Supreme Court nullifies presidential election
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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In a landmark ruling on September 1st, Kenya's Supreme Court nullified the result of the August 8th presidential election and ordered a re-run, citing irregularities in the vote-counting and transmission process, alongside other alleged failings by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The court's verdict, by a 4-2 majority, vindicates a legal challenge launched by the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) and its defeated presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, to the presidential election result, in which the IEBC declared the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party), the winner, by a margin of 54.2% to 44.9%. The chief justice, David Maraga, said that the election was "not conducted in accordance with the constitution and the applicable law", making the results "invalid, null and void"; a fresh contest must be held within 60 days, as mandated in the constitution. Full details will appear in a longer judgement from the court (within 21 days), although the IEBC's failings were made clear during the hearings, when it failed to comply with several legal orders to allow the opposition access to its computer systems.
The ruling inevitably extends the period of uncertainty surrounding the election, which may dampen business activity. However, more positively, it strengthens the rule of law and underlines the supremacy of the constitution, with positive implications for Kenya's longer-term democratic deepening. The short-term challenges are nonetheless substantial, not least because of the commission's tarnished reputation and need to ensure that the re-run is not tainted by further fraud. This poses a dilemma, because the IEBC has a constitutionally mandated role, but there is insufficient time to install new commissioners.
The ruling applies only to the presidential election, but evidence of fraud could also spark legal petitions by losing candidates in the parliamentary and county governor elections. Predicting the outcome of the re-run is tricky, as the precise impact of fraud on the results is difficult to ascertain at present. Mr Kenyatta could therefore win a re-run and secure a second term, but the evidence of manipulation and the court ruling will dent his credibility, making a victory for Mr Odinga more likely.
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