Kenyans are slated to return to the polls in just over a month for a do-over presidential election, following the Kenyan Supreme Court’s ruling this past month that vacated the previous election results. The timing is tight, and it doesn’t look like Kenyan election authorities will be able to organize credible elections in time. Bloomberg:
With the next vote due in just five weeks, the electoral commission is mired in infighting over who should take the fall for last month’s botched contest. Demands by ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 72, and his National Super Alliance that sweeping changes be made to the commission, including the removal of its chief executive officer, have also placed them at loggerheads with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party.
“As things stand now, most of the people that ran the Aug. 8 elections are still in office and the system that they used has not been changed,” Peter Wayande, a politics professor at the University of Nairobi, said by phone from the capital. “As long as that remains the case, one cannot expect credible elections. If things are not done right, there will definitely be a crisis that will result in political instability.”
Doing the same thing over a second time and expecting the same results is the definition of insanity. And Kenya appears to be veering in the direction of insanity.
Meanwhile, President Kenyatta and his supporters have moved from responsible, conciliatory talking points about the “rule of law” and respecting the decisions of judges to more ominous rhetoric. The East African reports that this weekend Robinson Njeru Githae, the Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, told a conference: “I can categorically say here looking you straight in the eye that the Supreme Court robbed Uhuru Kenyatta of his win and stole the election from the Kenyan people.” Fighting words! So much for respecting the judicial branch. And, also from The East African, President Kenyatta himself had the following to say about what would happen if Odinga were to win the new elections:
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that even if the opposition National Super Alliance Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga wins the October 17 repeat poll, ruling Jubilee has the numbers to impeach him in less than three months.
He did not elaborate the reasons that would lead to the impeachment.
The President said Jubilee, which has the majority of members in both Houses of Parliament, can make amendments to the Constitution based on its numbers.
“If Raila is elected how will he lead? How? In the last Senate we could not pass Bills…but presently, we can do business without a single Nasa member. In the National Assembly, with over 200 members we are 13 members shy of a two-thirds majority meaning we can change the Constitution.
“We have to tell Kenyans the truth. Even if he is elected we have the opportunity in Parliament within two [to] three months to impeach him,” Mr Kenyatta said.
All eyes are on the Kenyan Supreme Court, which is expected to release its full ruling before September 22. Until then, the ruling party and the opposition will continue to squabble and Kenya’s electoral commission will be riven with infighting and efforts to apportion blame. With time ticking, it’s unlikely that Kenya will make any progress on the path to credible elections before the Supreme Court releases its full decision.
To avoid a full-blown political crisis in Kenya, complete with ethnic bloodletting reminiscent of that unleashed in the 2007-2008 electoral crisis, the elections must be postponed. The Supreme Court’s 60-day deadline for new elections is too short. The elections must be credible, and it will take some time to reform Kenya’s electoral commission, or find a new group to organize the elections. Even with credible elections, however, the chances of a destabilizing political crisis in Kenya grow more dire by the day. Kenyatta’s creeping authoritarianism is deeply worrisome. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, the Trump Administration’s newly-appointed interim Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, should place Kenya at the top of his agenda.