Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Vote dispute simmers, though opposition areas calmer

Published:Sunday | October 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Opposition supporters carrying rocks and sticks try to march down a road leading out of Kawangware slum at dusk before being pushed back by police firing tear gas in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.


Kenya's second presidential election since August remained in limbo yesterday as the election commission said it was working on a "way forward" in opposition areas where voting has been postponed because of unrest.

While most of the country was calm, police used tear gas to disperse crowds in a Nairobi slum where anger towards the government runs deep.

It was unclear when tensions over the election, a rerun of the nullified August vote, would subside. Opposition Leader Raila Odinga boycotted the vote last Thursday, citing a lack of election reforms.

Tallies from many polling stations, published on the election commission's website, showed President Uhuru Kenyatta with vast leads over Odinga and six other candidates.

However, any decision to declare Kenyatta the winner are likely to intensify grievances among opposition supporters in the East African country with a reputation for stability and economic growth.

Kenya is again struggling with divisions fuelled by ethnic-based politics. The voting delays in four counties where opposition supporters have fought with police have complicated hopes for the country's troubled democracy.

The election commission will provide an update today "on the way forward" in two dozen constituencies where voting did not occur, commission chief Wafula Chebukati said.

"We have the materials ready, but we can't do this alone. It's a security issue," Chebukati said. "We cannot put the lives of our staff at risk."

The election commission also revised its turnout from last Thursday's election to 48 per cent of 19.6 million registered voters, saying that an earlier estimate of about one-third was not based on complete data.

The opposition boycott sharply reduced turnout in comparison to the August 8 vote, when nearly 80 per cent of registered voters participated.

The Supreme Court nullified the August vote because of irregularities the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential election.

Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the ruling, withdrew from the new election, saying that the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms.