The Kenyan High Court has directed election board to include one of the country oppositions’ candidate, Ekuru Aukot, who polled less than 1 per cent during presidential elections in August, on ballot prepare for a re-run.
However, the court’s judge, Justice John Mativo, explained that there was no reason to deprive the candidate from contesting during the election.
“I find nothing to bar the petitioner from contesting the fresh election,”
In conclusion, his ruling means President Uhuru Kenyatta may still have a challenger on October 26, the scheduled date for the re-run, despite withdrawal of top opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, over allegations of bias.
But there were views that the High Court’s ruling in favor of Aukot, failed to dispel concerns about how a deepening political crisis would play out, as he said he had doubts about standing while opposition supporters gathered in response to calls to demonstrate for electoral reform.
The repeat election between incumbent Kenyatta and challengerOdinga has been scheduled for October 26 , after the Supreme Court annulled the original ballot, in which Kenyatta was declared the winner, due to procedural irregularities.
Meanwhile, Odinga declared on Tuesday that he was withdrawing amid concerns that the re-run would not be free and fair, renewing calls for a new electoral board (IEBC), whose current members he blamed for the irregularities, to be appointed.
Further muddying the political waters, parliament passed an amendment on Wednesday to the country’s election laws, saying that if one candidate withdrew from a repeat presidential election, the other one would automatically win.
The parliamentary spokesman, Martin Mutua, explained that once the president signed the court’s order, the law would immediately take effect, though the vote was boycotted by opposition lawmakers.
It was reported that the Tuesday’s declaration by Odinga fed into a mood of unease that has stoked citizens’ fears over a potential descent into violence and blunted growth in East Africa’s richest nation, a long-time ally of the West.
A repeat of the widespread ethnic clashes that killed 1,200 people followed a disputed presidential poll in 2007 appears unlikely at this stage.
Since after the anulment of the election in August, at least 37 people had been reported killed during protests, almost all of them by police, a Kenyan rights group said Monday. Opposition supporters on Wednesday again demonstrated for changes at the electoral board.
Aukot told reporters outside the High Court that he still had concerns about the board and would issue a statement in a day or two giving clarity about his plans.
Justice Mativo said earlier he could “find nothing to bar the petitioner (Aukot) from contesting the fresh election.”
It was unclear if other candidates from the first ballot with little support would also seek to be included, but the election board said it still had time to print ballot papers.
The Sept. 1 Supreme Court judgment that nullified Kenyatta’s 1.4 million vote win also stipulated elections had to be held within 60 days.
If that schedule is not met, the constitution provides for the speaker of parliament, a member of Kenyatta’s party, to take power.