Kenya’s Odinga says he will contest his narrow election defeat

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan opposition figure Raila Odinga said on Tuesday he would contest the results of the close presidential election with “all constitutional and legal options” after Vice President William Ruto was declared the winner, bringing

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan opposition figure Raila Odinga said on Tuesday he would challenge the results of the close the presidential election with “all constitutional and legal options” after Vice President William Ruto was declared the winner, bringing further uncertainty to a country where the vote was widely seen as the most peaceful.

Today, East Africa’s most stable democracy faces weeks of conflict and the possibility of the Supreme Court ordering new elections. Religious leaders and others have pleaded for calm in a country with a history of deadly post-election violence.

“Let no one take the law into his own hands,” Odinga told his often impassioned supporters. In Kisumu, a town in his western Kenya stronghold, some residents said they were tired of taking to the streets and being sprayed with tear gas.

It was Odinga’s first appearance since the chairman of Kenya’s electoral commission on Monday declared Ruto the winner with nearly 50.5 percent of the vote. Four of the seven commissioners abruptly announced that they could not support the results, and Odinga’s supporters fought with the remaining commissioners at the location of the declaration.

Shortly before Odinga took the floor, the four commissioners told reporters that the president’s final calculations totaled 100.01% and that the excess votes would have made a “significant difference”. They also said he did not give them the opportunity to discuss the results before his statement.

“What we saw yesterday was a travesty and blatant disregard for the constitution,” Odinga said, calling the election results “null and void”.

Odinga, 77, has served as president for a quarter of a century. His campaign has seven days after Monday’s statement to file a petition with the Supreme Court, which would then have 14 days to rule.

Odinga is recognized as a fighter, detained for years in the 1980s for his multi-party democracy efforts and a supporter of Kenya’s groundbreaking 2010 constitution. His claim that the deeply troubled 2007 elections were stolen from him led to violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives. Although he boycotted the 2017 re-vote, his legal challenge led to electoral reforms.

The electoral commission had been widely seen as improving its transparency in this election, virtually inviting Kenyans to do the count themselves by posting the more than 46,000 result forms from across the country online.

On Tuesday, the local election observation group announced that its highly praised parallel vote count “corroborates the official results” in an important check on the process.

But Odinga claimed that only the chairman of the electoral commission could see the final results before the declaration. “The law does not give the president the powers of a dictator,” he said, and insisted that the committee’s decisions must be made by consensus.

There was no immediate statement from the electoral commission or its chairman. A screen in its tally center that showed cumulative presidential election results stopped updating on Saturday and was later turned off. The official form showing the final results could not be viewed on the commission’s website on Tuesday.

Odinga’s campaign expected a win after incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a political twist, backed his former rival Odinga instead of his own vice president, with whom he fell out years ago. years. Some Kenyans noted that Kenyatta appointed the four dissenting commissioners last year.

The 55-year-old president-elect, Ruto, challenged Kenyans by making the election on economic differences, not ethnic differences that have long marked the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results. He presented himself as an outsider of humble beginnings challenging the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose fathers were Kenya’s first president and vice president.

Yet voter turnout last Tuesday fell to 65% as Kenyans across the country of 56 million expressed frustration and lack of confidence that candidates would tackle the issues of rising prices, high unemployment and widespread corruption. The now wealthy Ruto himself has denied multiple allegations of land grabbing and other bribes.

Ruto’s past also includes an indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for his role in the 2007 election violence, although the case was dropped due to allegations of witness intimidation.

While an increasing number of African leaders released statements congratulating Ruto, Kenya’s incumbent president remained silent.

Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Carol N. Valencia