Kenya: Opposition Leader Raila Odinga Rejects Election Results, Calling Them “Illegal”

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Former Prime Minister and former presidential candidate Raila Odinga refuted this Tuesday the results of the presidential elections on August 9 and announced a legal battle to challenge them. His statements come a day after the Electoral Commission released the figures that gave victory to Vice President William Ruto and after four of seven electoral commissioners also rejected the calculations.

The Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, describes the results of the presidential elections on August 9 as “null and void”.

The figure of the Kenyan opposition assured this Tuesday, August 16, that he will challenge the calculations of the close elections with “all legal options”, after his defeat against Vice President William Ruto was declared.

“What we saw yesterday was a parody and a blatant disregard for the Constitution (…) Our opinion is that the figures announced by (the president of the electoral commission, Wafula) Chebukati are null and void and must be annulled by the courts” Odinga assured at a press conference, in which he also asked his followers not to take “justice into their own hands.”

On Monday, August 15, the independent Electoral Commission disclosed the vote tally, according to which Ruto won with 50.49% of the votes against 48.5% for Odinga.

However, four of the seven electoral commissioners abruptly announced that they could not back up the figures. They assured that the president’s final numbers added up to 100.01% and that the excess of votes would have made a “significant difference.” They also noted that they did not have a chance to discuss the results before a statement was issued.

Kenya faces weeks of legal wrangling

Following Odinga’s denunciation, the nation faces weeks of wrangling and the possibility of the Supreme Court ordering new elections. Religious leaders, meanwhile, urge calm.

The opposition leader’s campaign has seven days, counted from the publication of the results on Monday, August 15, to present a petition to the high court. The court then has 14 days to issue a ruling.

Odinga, 77, has run for the presidency for a quarter of a century, in five consecutive elections.

Their complaint comes despite the fact that the Commission had been widely considered to have improved its actions to ensure transparency in these elections. The electoral body invited Kenyans to follow the count for themselves, posting online the more than 46,000 result forms from across the country.

William Ruto, and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, show the certificate after the announcement in the presidential race at the Bomas Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, August 15, 2022. © AP/Sayyid Abdul Azim

On Tuesday, the Election Observation Group announced that its parallel vote counting system “corroborates the official results,” an important check on the process.

But Odinga claimed that only the president of the Commission could see the final results before the declaration. “The law does not confer dictatorial powers on the president,” he said, insisting that the body’s decisions must be made by consensus.

Odinga’s campaign was hoping for victory after outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a surprising political turn, endorsed his former rival Odinga instead of his own vice president.

Fears of possible outbreak of violence

Odinga’s pronouncement brings uncertainty back to a country considered in recent years to be East Africa’s most stable democracy, but with a history of post-election violence.

The opposition leader’s claims to challenge increase fears of violence such as the one that detonated in 2017, when more than 100 people were killed after the Supreme Court annulled the electoral results, after citing anomalies in the voting process.

A decade earlier, in 2007, more than 1,200 Kenyans were killed in an outbreak of widespread fighting after presidential elections.

Memories of post-election bloodshed remain fresh in the memory of the country, where turnout in past votes fell to 65%.

Many of the 56 million Kenyans across the territory expressed frustration and lack of confidence that the candidates would address the problems of rising prices, high unemployment rates and widespread corruption.

Supporters of vice president and presidential candidate William Ruto celebrate his victory over opposition leader Raila Odinga in Eldoret, Kenya, on Monday, August 15, 2022. Ruto received 50.49% of the vote, said the chairman of the electoral commission, while Odinga received 48.85%
Supporters of vice president and presidential candidate William Ruto celebrate his victory over opposition leader Raila Odinga in Eldoret, Kenya, on Monday, August 15, 2022. Ruto received 50.49% of the vote, said the chairman of the electoral commission, while Odinga received 48.85% AP – Brian Inganga

Ruto, 55, appealed to Kenyans to choose taking into account the economic and non-ethnic differences that have marked the country’s politics for decades.

He portrayed himself as an outsider from humble beginnings who challenged the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose parents were the first president and vice president of Kenya, following the nation’s independence.

But the declared winner of the election has also faced multiple accusations of land grabbing and bribery, allegations he has denied.

As the election result settles, a growing number of African leaders continue to issue congratulatory statements to Ruto and the outgoing leader remains silent.

With Reuters and AP

Kenya: Opposition Leader Raila Odinga Rejects Election Results, Calling Them “Illegal”