Kenya’s Odinga: From the polls to the courts

Kenya’s prime minister details claims of election rigging in aftermath of bitterly contested poll.

Raila Odinga
Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga says he will not concede defeat and will contest the election in court [AP]

Nairobi, Kenya – As President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta declared victory on Saturday, he told a tired nation that “the election is over”.

Not so much for Prime Minister Raila Odinga. His CORD coalition has alleged shenanigans occurred at several stages of the election, from tampering with tallied results to inflating turnout figures in Kenyatta’s TNA strongholds.

“It is clear the constitutionally sanctioned process of electing a new set of leaders to take us to the next level has been thwarted by another tainted election,” Odinga told reporters.

“Let the Supreme Court determine whether the result announced by the IEBC [Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission] is a lawful one. We are confident the court will restore the faith of Kenyans in the democratic rule of law.”

Team Odinga has seven days in which to make an appeal to the country’s highest court, but analysts say it is likely that the case will be presented on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Supreme Court then has two weeks in which to reach a decision.

This is considered lightning speed in Kenyan legal circles. Before sweeping reforms to the judiciary were implemented in the wake of the country’s new constitution, such cases could have dragged on for years.

“All judges and magistrates will work through vacation periods, and, if necessary, will sit on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays,” said Kenya’s chief justice, Dr Willy Mutunga.

Court case

The CORD case rests on demonstrating that electoral procedures had been violated.

“Purely from a legal point of view, they have a very strong chance of success – they have pretty good, solid grounds for filing the case,” political consultant Dr Makodingo Washington told Al Jazeera.

Some of the discrepancies alleged include examples such as in Ndhiwa, a town on the shores of Lake Victoria, which reportedly had 61,339 voters recorded in the IEBC’s register. By the time the IEBC announced results for the Odinga-leaning constituency, CORD officials say Ndhiwa seemed to have lost nearly 13,000 voters, with only 48,535 voters recorded.

 Odinga supporters voice anger at poll result


Results from Laikipia North, which straddles the equator in the Rift Valley, were announced twice. On Thursday, Kenyatta was awarded 9,707 votes. By Friday, Kenyatta’s numbers were inflated to 11,361, CORD officials allege.

“Democracy is on trial,” Odinga insisted.

His colleagues have reportedly amassed claims regarding more than 30 constituencies in which voter turnout seemed to total more than 100 per cent, or results were allegedly adjusted to give Kenyatta an advantage.

After electronic vote tallying meant to provide provisional results within 48 hours collapsed the day after polling day, the system was abandoned, and officials reverted to a manual count – which had always been the planned method to establish the definitive result.

“That too turned out to be a flawed exercise in which, among other things, there was massive tampering with the voter register,” Odinga charged.

Election commission officials have emphatically denied all allegations of electoral wrongdoing, and said that any constituency that showed more than 100 percent turnout had automatically been rejected as a whole.

“Those objecting [to] the results should follow the required legal process,” said IEBC boss Isaack Hassan.

Next stages?

If the Supreme Court upholds the allegations, it may order a recount in those districts where the allegations have been made. With Kenyatta’s total count just over 8,000 votes above the 50 percent mark, and with around 100,000 rejected ballots, a recount in these areas could cause Kenyatta’s tally to drop below the crucial 50 per cent threshold, triggering a run-off election.

The court may even decide to scrap all results from the election, and order a fresh poll – a decision that would not elicit much sympathy from a nation fatigued from a lengthy campaign.

“Whether CORD would win [a run-off vote] depends on how they spin this. At the moment, the Jubilee team is winning the PR war, but CORD has now up to 20 days to win the country over,” Dr Washington told Al Jazeera.

“[Odinga supporters] are angry, but peaceful because they have faith in the Supreme Court… If the Supreme Court dashes these hopes, I don’t think the peace will hold as well.”

At time of publication, Jubilee coalition officials had not responded to requests for comment, but Deputy President-elect William Ruto – who, like Kenyatta, faces trial on charges of crimes against humanity in the coming months – urged Odinga to accept the result as announced.

“The people of Kenya have spoken very clearly,” Ruto said in his victory speech on Saturday. “I have heard the prime minister saying the voice of the people is the voice of God. I really want to persuade my friends – beginning with the prime minister – to join us.”

‘Ambitious undertaking’

 Al Jazeera speaks with Kenyan election expert


Cases of “electoral irregularities” are certain to have occurred in some parts of the country. In Lamu, a beautiful archipelago on Kenya’s east coast noted for its Swahili architecture, the deputy county returning officer was arrested, allegedly trying to get party agents to sign vote tallying forms in private, days after polls closed.

But such cases remain isolated examples, said election observers. European Union observers praised Kenya for “demonstrating a strong commitment to democratic elections” in an “ambitious undertaking”.

Kenya’s own Elections Observation Group (ELOG) said the results announced fell within the expected range for each candidate. “ELOG is confident the process was generally credible,” the group’s chairman, Kennedy Masime, told reporters. 

If Odinga and his allies change their minds and choose not to pursue a court battle, Kenyatta will be sworn in as president on March 26. If the Supreme Court rejects the CORD petition, he will become Kenya’s fourth president on April 16.

But if the court upholds CORD’s case, a new election or a run-off will be held within 60 days, and the next president will be inaugurated on June 18.

“We shall ensure a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” said Francis Kimemia, head of Kenya’s civil service.

Follow James Brownsell on Twitter: @JamesBrownsell

Source: Al Jazeera