Raila Odinga on Tuesday rejected the results of the August 9 presidential election giving his rival William Ruto the winner. He called them a ‘travesty’ and promised to pursue all legal options available to him.
Six days after the August 9 election, marked by calm despite growing impatience, outgoing Vice-President Ruto was declared the winner on Monday evening with 50.49% of the vote against 48.85% for Raila Odinga, by an Electoral Commission shaken by internal divisions.
The eyes of the country were now on the now regime-backed opposition veteran, who, at 77, was competing for the fifth time and remained invisible and silent since Monday.
‘Obvious contempt for the Constitution’
From his headquarters, Raila Odinga, wearing a large blue hat – the color of his coalition – firmly rejected these results, among the tightest in the country’s history (a difference of some 233,000 votes).
“What we witnessed yesterday is a travesty and blatant disregard for the Constitution,” he said, calling on his supporters to calm down and assuring that he would pursue “all legal options” available.
“We will do so in view of the many flaws in the elections,” he added, without going so far as to promise an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Familiar with remedies
Mr. Odinga is however familiar with these appeals, which he filed in 2013 and then 2017. This past year, the Supreme Court had invalidated the presidential election due to “irregularities”, a first in Africa.
In 2007, an election also very close, Odinga had also, without going to court, refused the result, which had triggered the worst post-election crisis in the history of the country, with more than 1,100 dead in inter-ethnic clashes .
Violent but localized protests
Mr. Ruto was declared on Monday as the fifth president of Kenya since independence in 1963. He is the second president of his community, the Kalenjin, to take up this post.
The wealthy 55-year-old businessman immediately assured that he would work with ‘all political leaders’, promising a ‘transparent, open and democratic’ country.
The announcement of the results triggered violent but localized demonstrations on Monday evening in Mr. Odinga’s strongholds, including working-class neighborhoods in Nairobi and Kisumu (west). Calm had returned there on Tuesday morning.
But many businesses remain closed and the economy has been sluggish since the vote a week ago, raising public impatience.
Skyrocketing cost of living
The campaign was notably dominated by the soaring cost of living, especially of basic commodities, with East Africa’s economic powerhouse being hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Mr. Ruto had made this theme his hobbyhorse.
For his part, Raila Odinga, who had notably undertaken to reform the country and fight against corruption, had received valuable support from outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ruling party.
“He basically had all the support he needed to snatch victory, except the majority of people,” said Zaynab Mohamed, a political analyst for Oxford Economics.
The Election Observation Group (Elog), an association which has been monitoring the smooth running of votes since 2010, said on Tuesday that its calculations ‘concurred’ with the results of the IEBC, with 50.7% for Ruto and 48.7 % for Odinga.
The Electoral Commission, although praised by observers for its management on election day, is again this year under intense pressure.
A few minutes before its president announced the results on Monday, four of its seven members dissociated themselves from it, rejecting in a coup de theater a process of ‘opaque nature’.
100.01%, ‘mathematical nonsense’
On Tuesday, who came to detail their arguments before the press, these four ‘rebels’ notably denounced a total of percentages reaching 100.01%, a figure described by them as ‘mathematical absurdity’.
Analysts, including Nic Cheeseman, a professor at the University of Birmingham (UK) and a connoisseur of Kenya, have however pointed out that this discrepancy could be explained by the fact of rounding the percentages.
‘Expect a lot of controversy. Expect legal action. Expect it to last and last,’ the latter said on Twitter.
If it is seized in the coming week, the Supreme Court will have 14 days to render its decision. Otherwise, William Ruto will take office within two weeks.