Odinga: Kenya’s Presidential Re-election A “Mockery of Democracy”

Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has declared that his National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition coalition will not accept the result of last week’s controversial presidential re-election, and has vowed to begin a political campaign to “restore democracy in the country.”

This declaration came on Tuesday, a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party won the October 26 poll, taking 98.2 percent of the votes. However, turnout was allegedly less than 40 percent, following a boycott called by Odinga, bringing about doubts on the credibility of the election rerun.

Odinga told reporters that “this election must not stand,” alleging that the results were not credible and that the electoral body was not in charge of the poll. He claimed that numbers were inflated in Jubilee strongholds through collaboration between politicians, electoral commission officers, public officers, and county police commanders in order to ensure Kenyatta’s win, while also creating an impression that Kenyans took part in the re-election. He also adds that “if allowed to stand… it will completely destroy public confidence in the vote,” as “reasonable people will not turn out to vote in elections with pre-determined outcomes.”

However, in his victory speech on Monday, Kenyatta denied that many people had not voted, saying that “the narrative locally and internationally [that] the voter turnout was low is inaccurate.” He attributed it to “political convenience and a tirade of conjuncture statistics.”

The presidential election rerun was called after the country’s Supreme Court annulled the August 8 election following opposition from Odinga, who claimed that there were “illegalities and irregularities” in the voting process. Later on, Odinga himself withdrew from the repeat poll, claiming opposition demands for reform had not been made to the electoral commission. These demands for reform include replacing the head of the electoral commission, reviewing the voter register and 40,883 polling stations, using a different company to print all related forms, pre-printing forms with polling centre and candidate names, establishing a technical monitoring committee with representatives from each party to ensure that no hacking or misuse occurs, and establishing more defined roles for security agencies and public officials involved. James Gondi, a Nairobi-based political analyst, has suggested that turnout was so low partially because without Odinga in the run, many people had no one to vote against and therefore decided not to come to polling stations at all. Low voter turnout was also attributed to ‘voter’s fatigue’, as well as fear of violence at the polls.

Ahead of the election, Odinga had discouraged his supporters from voting and vowed to transform NASA into a “resistance movement” against the government by using “economic boycotts, peaceful processions, and other legitimate protests.” He adds that “If there is no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government.”

In the time leading up to the election, Kenya was gripped by almost daily protests between opposition supporters and security forces, resulting in the deaths of at least 50 people since August’s annulled poll. This is the greatest surge in political violence in the region witnessed in a while, and it only threatens to get worse. As the African Union stated on Tuesday, there must be more dialogue between Kenyatta and Odinga so that this political violence can, at the very least, decrease in intensity. This dialogue should include negotiation particularly focusing on reforms of the electoral commission and on the improvement of the democratic process.