Opposition leader Raila Odinga said Tuesday he would challenge the results of Kenya’s close presidential election by “every constitutional and legal avenue” after Deputy President William Ruto was declared the winner, bringing fresh uncertainty to East Africa’s most stable democracy.
Now the country faces weeks of wrangling and the possibility that the Supreme Court will order new elections. Religious and other leaders have pleaded for calm to proceed in a nation with a history of deadly post-election violence.
“Nobody should take the law into their own hands,” Odinga told his often passionate supporters. In Kisumu, a town in its stronghold in western Kenya, some residents said they were tired of taking to the streets and being gassed through tears.
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It was Odinga’s first appearance since the head of Kenya’s electoral commission declared Ruto the winner with nearly 50.5% of the vote on Monday. Four of the seven commissioners abruptly announced that they could not support the findings, and Odinga supporters wrestled with the remaining commissioners at the site where the announcement was made.
Just before Odinga spoke, the four commissioners claimed to journalists that the chairman’s final calculation was 100.01% and that the excess votes made a “significant difference”. They also said he didn’t give them an opportunity to discuss the findings before making his statement.
“What we saw yesterday was a farce and a blatant disregard for the constitution,” Odinga said, calling the election results “null and void.”
The President-elect has described the Commissioners’ allegations as “sideshows” and said they have no bearing on the legitimacy of the statement. A US embassy statement Monday called the statement “an important milestone in the election process.”
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Odinga, 77, has held the presidency for a quarter of a century. His campaign has seven days, according to Monday’s statement, to submit a petition to the Supreme Court, which would then have 14 days to make a decision.
Known as a militant, Odinga was imprisoned for years in the 1980s for his push for multi-party democracy. He was also a supporter of Kenya’s groundbreaking 2010 constitution.
His claims that he had been stolen from the deeply troubled 2007 election led to violence that left more than 1,000 dead. Though he boycotted the 2017 vote, his court challenge led to electoral reforms.
The Electoral Commission was widely seen as improving its transparency in this election, effectively inviting Kenyans to do the counting themselves by posting the more than 46,000 result forms from across the country online.
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On Tuesday, the local election observation group announced that its highly regarded parallel vote tally confirms the official findings in a key review of the process.
But Odinga claimed that the chairman wrongly withheld the election results from the rest of the commission until he declared the winner. “The law does not give the chairman the powers of a dictator,” he said, insisting that the commission’s decisions must be taken by consensus.
There was no immediate statement from the electoral commission or its chairman. A screen at its counting center showing the results of the cumulative presidential election stopped updating on Saturday and was later turned off.
Odinga’s campaign had expected victory after, in a political turn, outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta backed his former rival Odinga in place of his own vice-president, with whom he had fallen out years earlier. Some Kenyans have noted that Kenyatta appointed the four dissenting commissioners last year.
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President-elect Ruto, 55, appealed to Kenyans to conduct elections on economic differences, rather than ethnic differences, which have long shaped the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results. He portrayed himself as an outsider from humble beginnings, opposed to the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose fathers were Kenya’s first president and vice-president.
Still, voter turnout fell to 65% last Tuesday as Kenyans across the country of 56 million expressed frustration and a lack of confidence that the candidates would tackle problems of rising prices, high unemployment and widespread corruption. The now wealthy Ruto himself has denied several allegations of land grabbing and other bribes.
Ruto’s past also includes an indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for his role in the 2007 election violence, although the case was dropped on allegations of witness intimidation.
As a growing number of African leaders issued statements congratulating Ruto, Kenya’s outgoing president remained silent.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/9064008/kenyas-opposition-leader-railia-odinga/ Kenya’s opposition leader Railia Odinga wants to contest the election loss