Kenya politics: Quick View - Confusion surrounds presidential election rerun

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On October 10th Raila Odinga, the opposition's presidential candidate, announced his withdrawal from the presidential election rerun scheduled for October 26th, thereby sparking a potential constitutional crisis.


Mr Odinga (of the National Super Alliance; Nasa) blames a resistance to reforms by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and a attempt by the ruling Jubilee Party to push through controversial amendments to electoral laws in advance of the rerun. Nasa believes these two factors mean the rerun would be as tainted by irregularities as the original August 8th contest, which the Supreme Court invalidated on September 1st. Nasa's claims have some substance: attempts by the IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati, to push through reforms have been stymied by divisions between the commissioners, and Jubilee's ill-timed bid to change electoral laws, criticised by Mr Chebukati and some diplomats, has exacerbated the tension.

Nasa believes that its withdrawal should lead to a new presidential election, with fresh nominations, to be held within 90 days, according to the party's interpretation of the constitution and election-related judgements made by the Supreme Court in 2013. Jubilee, for its part, will now press for Uhuru Kenyatta to be handed the presidency without the need for a rerun, but a High Court ruling on October 11th, that a third candidate, Ekuru Aukot, be allowed to take part, makes it harder to scrap the contest. A further critical factor is the constitutional requirement for the rerun to be held within 60 days of the original Supreme Court ruling (by end-October), which would be violated both by Nasa's new-election option and Jubilee's no-election preference.

A political solution, based on Mr Odinga retracting his withdrawal in return for certain belated concessions, remains an outside possibility, but it seems more likely that the judiciary will again be called on to intervene. Predicting court rulings is impossible, but most scenarios entail significant risks. A new election, as demanded by Nasa, would lead to extended political uncertainty, but allowing Mr Kenyatta to retain the presidency without a valid election could prove to be destabilising. Kenya stands on the brink of a constitutional crisis, with an attendant risk of rising violence.

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