, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 20 – Kenya’s Supreme Court is due to rule Monday on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta can be sworn in for a second term or if there must be yet another vote.
The dispute over this year’s presidential elections has left the country deeply divided, with protests and clashes between opposition supporters and police commonplace.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga won an unprecedented court victory overturning the result of the original August 8 poll after claims hackers broke into the electoral commission database and manipulated the results.
That led to a rerun last month that Odinga boycotted, claiming the vote would not be free and fair.
After hearing two days of arguments on the validity of the second vote, Chief Justice David Maraga said last week a six-judge bench would hand down its decision Monday — the constitutional deadline.
The ruling will either call for a third presidential election to be held within 60 days or clear the way for Kenyatta’s swearing in on November 28.
Former lawmaker and businessman John Harun Mwau submitted one petition challenging the vote, while another was filed jointly by Njonjo Mue, a human rights and judicial expert, and Khelef Khalifa, director of Muslims for Human Rights.
Although Kenyatta obtained 98 percent of votes cast last month, voter turnout was only 39 percent, down from 79 percent in August, after the opposition boycotted the new election saying the election commission had not instituted wide-ranging reforms necessary for a free and fair vote.
The opposition has since called for demonstrations, economic boycotts of certain companies and a campaign of civil disobedience.
Lawyers for Mwau have argued that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should have conducted fresh nominations ahead of the October 26 vote.
Mue and Khalifa’s counsel has argued that violence and intimidation and a lack of independence for the IEBC — whose own chairman Wafula Chebukati claimed he could not guarantee a free and fair election — meant the rerun vote was not in line with the constitution.
Chebukati later changed his mind and said the election could go ahead.
Maraga was thrust into the spotlight after annulling the original August 8 vote, a decision hailed worldwide as an opportunity to deepen Kenya’s democracy and set an example for other African nations.
But the decision led instead to unrest and acrimony that has left the nation bruised and deeply divided. Kenyatta has said he will abide by the final ruling “no matter its outcomes”.
Before the second vote, the Supreme Court had found by a majority vote of four judges to two that the initial election was marred by widespread illegalities and irregularities.
However, a last-minute Supreme Court hearing on the eve of the rerun challenging the legality of the election was scrapped when only two judges turned up raising fears the bench may have been compromised.