Kenya politics: Quick View - Supreme Court endorses rerun outcome

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
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The Supreme Court, on November 20th, dismissed petitions challenging the outcome of the presidential election rerun on October 26th, thereby removing the final obstacle to Uhuru Kenyatta's inauguration for a second and final presidential term.


The judges, in a unanimous ruling, upheld Mr Kenyatta's rerun victory with 98% of the vote, even though turnout dropped to just 39% because of a boycott by the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) and its candidate, Raila Odinga. Nasa also decided not to challenge the outcome in court, instead leaving the task to civil society petitioners, which may have weakened the case. The court's full reasoning will be delivered within 22 days, but the judgment implies that none of the reasons cited by the petitioners-such as the opposition boycott, a failure to hold elections in all constituencies and a lack of fresh nominations-were grounds for scrapping the result. The Supreme Court has also yet to comment on the rerun's integrity-after annulling the original presidential election, held on August 8th, because of irregularities blamed on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)-but presumably the judges believe that improvements were made.

The judges were probably also being pragmatic, given the probable failure of another rerun to resolve the impasse and the additional uncertainties involved in ordering a fresh election. While lauded by many for annulling the original election and boosting the rule of law, the court also faced blame for exacerbating tensions and uncertainties, no doubt leaving the judges wary of perpetuating the stalemate, especially in view of the opposition's lack of engagement.

The ruling allows for Mr Kenyatta's inauguration on November 28th for a second term as president, followed by the installation of a new cabinet, which may retain some key figures (such as Henry Rotich at the Treasury). This heralds a return to more normal governance after a period of comparative inactivity, which will benefit business. However, Nasa's rejection of the rerun outcome-because the IEBC's failings were not corrected-and its strategy of non-co-operation pose governance challenges that could impede policymaking and implementation. There is a slim chance of Mr Kenyatta appointing opposition figures to his cabinet in the interests of national unity.

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