The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is set to amend a gazette notice it issued on September 5 to include all presidential candidates who participated in the August 8 presidential election to take part in the October 26 fresh State House race.
The move follows a ruling by the High Court on Wednesday ruled that presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance, who scored less than one percent of the vote in the annulled election, should be allowed on the ballot.
In the judgment, Justice John Mativo said all candidates who took part in the August polls are also eligible to take part in the fresh poll, throwing the electoral commission into a new spin, just a day after veteran Opposition leader Raila Odinga announced that he will not participate in the polls ordered by the Supreme Court which annulled an August 8 election in which incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta had been declared winner.
In a statement to newsrooms Wednesday night, IEBC said it will include Aukot as well as five other candidates whose names were omitted in last month’s gazette notice which only had President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party) and National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga as the only contenders.
“Since all candidates who participated in the last election were entitled to run in the fresh presidential election, the Commission will comply with the direction (of the High Court) to include the names of the other candidates by way of corrigenda,” the IEBC dispatch to media houses read.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that only the petitioner and respondent in the case challenging the election outcome should stand in a re-run.
In the Wednesday statement, the electoral commission, however, said that any candidate who wishes to withdraw from the October 26 election should do so by submitting a duly filed Form 24A, and made it clear that Odinga’s letter notifying the agency of his withdrawal is not backed by law.
But Odinga’s head of the Campaign Secretariat Willis Otieno has told Capital FM News that the Opposition leader will not sign the requisite withdrawal form because “there were no fresh nominations conducted for the new poll which is the scenario regulation 52 of the Election General Regulations envisages.”
“In the gazette notice announcing the election date, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati made it clear that no fresh nominations would be held, in line with the Supreme Court decision in the Raila Odinga petition of 2013,” Otieno said, and clarified that Odinga is relying on the Supreme Court judgment of 2013 in the Raila Odinga petition in which the judges proffered the opinion that where a fresh poll is ordered and one of the two contenders abandons the race, fresh nominations for another fresh poll should be held.
“Odinga cannot be expected to subscribe to a regulation whose application he’s challenging in the present case and which would result in the automatic declaration of President Uhuru Kenyatta as re-elected should the IEBC successfully appeal the High Court finding of discrimination in their limiting of the October 26 poll contenders to two,” he said.
Odinga flew out of the country on Wednesday night to the United Kingdom for a series of high- profile engagements, including giving a lecture at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House on Kenya’s political situation and is expected back later in the week.
And with the decision by the electoral commission to include all candidates, other candidates who took part in the August election like Alliance for Real Change leader Abduba Dida and independent presidential candidates Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kaluyu have said that they are prepared for the new race which is seen as a walk-over by incumbent Kenyatta.
Other candidates in the August presidential election annulled by the Supreme Court on September 1 are Cyrus Jirongo (United Democratic Party) and Independent candidate Joseph Nyagah.
But even as the electoral commission prepare for the fresh election, Odinga’s NASA opposition outfit has vowed to continue with protests on Friday and daily from Monday next week, in their spirited efforts of demanding reforms at the electoral commission before any elections can he held.
“Let it be known that Raila is not yet out. It is not all about Raila,” said James Orengo who led protests in Nairobi Wednesday, “there shall be no elections without reforms.”
On Wednesday Kenya’s national assembly — dominated by the ruling Jubilee party — approved a series of electoral law changes that Odinga has argued will make the “irregularities” cited by the Supreme Court, legal.
Among these is a law stating that if one candidate withdraws the remaining candidate is declared elected.
However, it is unclear if this would apply to the current election.
The amendments, which now go to the Senate, will also allow manual vote counting to supersede electronically transmitted results and make tally forms count even if there is “a deviation from the requirements of the form”.
Among the irregularities noted by the Supreme Court was the number of vote tallying sheets that were unsigned, not stamped, or did not contain watermarks or serial numbers — despite one company being hired to print them.
But Odinga and other NASA leaders are opposed to the attempt to change electoral laws “in the middle of the game”, a view shared with western diplomats, who last week said “it is not best practice globally.”
President Kenyatta has, however, vowed to assent to the amendments as soon as they land on his desk, and has welcomed Odinga’s withdrawal from the race, vowing “he cannot stop an election.”
Odinga insists there must be wide-ranging reforms that the IEBC said were impossible to deliver in the constitutionally mandated period of 60 days since the annulment of the August poll.
“All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one,” he said, announcing his withdrawal Tuesday.
And with the ongoing demonstrations to pile pressure on the electoral commission to cancel the election, security analysts are worried of the scenarios on the day of the election when a peaceful environment is supposed to prevail for a free and fair election in all the 290 constituencies.