Opposition leader Raila Odinga has withdrawn from Kenya’s election rerun, arguing that vital reforms needed to carry out a fair poll on October 26th have not been achieved.
Odinga alleged that a lack of reforms at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) – the organisation responsible for running the election – had left the door open to electoral fraud by the ruling Jubilee Party. He claimed that his withdrawal would give the IEBC the chance to complete the necessary reforms ahead of another contest.
“After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election, considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large, we believe that all will be best served by the party vacating its presidential candidature in the election scheduled for 26 October 2017,” he said.
Odinga’s exit from the poll is just the latest manifestation of a political crisis that has rocked the country since the Supreme Court annulled incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in August.
Chief Justice David Maraga ordered the results of that poll ‘null and void’ and claimed that the IEBC had “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.” Odinga felt vindicated by the decision having complained in the months leading up to the poll of the possibility of widespread voter fraud. Since the court’s judgement, the IEBC has been riven by internal rivalries as it has fought against the clock to hold a second election within 60 days as ordered by the Supreme Court.
The IEBC has been split between chairman Wafula Chebukati – who has demanded answers to the technical problems which marred the first poll – and chief executive Ezra Chiloba, who insists that only minor irregularities took place in an otherwise free and fair vote. The re-run had originally been scheduled for 17th October but was delayed in late September as the IEBC sought more time for reforms. Odinga has repeatedly demanded the resignation of senior IEBC officials following the court’s decision.
In a party statement, Odinga’s National Super Alliance said that Jubilee had “no intention of competing on a level playing field” and slammed the IEBC.
“We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel to ensure that the “illegalities and irregularities” that led to the invalidation of the 8th August, 2008 do not happen again. All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one.”
The IEBC said in a tweet that its Commission and legal teams were meeting to discuss a way forward. NASA also called for demonstrations to be held on Wednesday under the banner “no reforms no elections”.