East Africa

Kenya goes to the polls in a ‘farce’ election

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Hopes for a last-minute postponement of Kenya’s general election re-run on Wednesday flickered and died, with a deeply flawed vote now set to go ahead amid the country’s greatest political crisis for a decade.

A Supreme Court hearing in Nairobi was supposed to give the judiciary a final chance to push back the election a couple of months, allowing room to bring the opposition – which has effectively withdrawn from the ballot – back to the negotiating table.

But that hearing could not go ahead as five of seven judges failed to show. At least one of them cited security concerns: Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu had her bodyguard shot and injured on Tuesday night. Chief Justice David Maraga said in a live TV address that another judge was unwell and a third was abroad.

Supporters of the opposition Nasa alliance and its leader, Raila Odinga, had pinned their hopes on the Supreme Court – the same court which annulled the first attempt at an election on 8 August after there were found to be irregularities when counting the results.

Its failure to even stage a hearing on Wednesday is now just another reason the opposition will use to dismiss Thursday’s vote, which the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed will go ahead regardless.

Speaking in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park in the afternoon, Mr Odinga called on his loyal supporters to boycott the vote, saying his party will become a “resistance movement” when they now inevitably lose.

He pulled his name out of the running for the presidency earlier this month when his demands for electoral reform in the wake of August’s aborted ballot were not met. “Do not participate,” he said at Wednesday’s rally, adding that a fresh election should be held within 90 days.

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Harun Ndubi, a lawyer for the petitioners to the Supreme Court, suggested that those judges who did not provide good reasons for missing the hearing were failing their constitutional duty.

“The justices must forever be available,” said Mr Ndubi. “I don’t buy their explanation. I don’t see a credible or legitimate election happening tomorrow,” he said, adding that any vote that does go ahead “would be a farce”.

All signs pointed to Kenya not being ready to hold a national election with just hours to go until ballots open. Images from the western opposition heartlands of Kisumu, posted to social media, showed little evidence of preparations at schools and town halls supposedly to be used as polling stations.

Even in pro-government regions where turnout could still be high, observers said lots of stations had yet to receive lists of registered voters.

And while OT-Morpho, the French digital security company providing equipment for use in the vote, said it was able to deliver a “credible poll”, it also admitted some of its capabilities

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