Kenya's opposition leader withdraws from race, demands fresh elections
2017-10-11 09:24:00

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (3rd L) speaks during a press briefing in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Oct. 10, 2017. Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday withdrew from presidential rerun slated for Oct. 26. (Xinhua/Fred Mutune)

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday pulled out of a scheduled presidential re-run and demanded fresh elections in the next three months.

Odinga defended his decision to withdraw from the Oct. 26 polls along with his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, saying the decision is in Kenya's interest and is "a win-win for everyone."

"Our withdrawal from the election requires the IEBC to cancel the election and to conduct fresh nominations," he said, referring to the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission.

"The procedure for nomination of presidential candidates is provided for in the Elections Act of 2011," Odinga told journalists in Nairobi.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) leader said it is only through his withdrawal that the country will have a free and fair election as per the law.

"All indications are that the election scheduled for Oct. 26 will be worse than the previous one. The only election Jubilee is interested in is one that it must win, even unlawfully," said Odinga.

He also said the IEBC has stonewalled meaningful deliberations on necessary reforms to ensure the election is free and fair.

"It has wasted valuable time engaging in public relations exercises intended to create the illusion of motion without any movement," Odinga said.

The 72-year-old veteran leader of Kenya's opposition politics said his withdrawal will give the electoral body adequate time to carry out reforms needed to avert malpractices in the electoral process.

He said his withdrawal was in line with the constitution and in the interest of the country and its bilateral partners.

Odinga said the IEBC chairman of the polls body was required to conduct fresh presidential elections after 90 days as stipulated in the country's election laws.

"Our withdrawal from the election requires the IEBC to cancel the election and to conduct fresh nominations," he said. "The procedure for nomination of presidential candidates is provided for in the Elections Act of 2011."

On Sept. 1, Kenya's Supreme Court annulled the results of the Aug. 8 presidential polls where the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner.

Judges of the apex court said their decision to invalidate Kenyatta's victory was based on gross malpractices by the electoral agency that included tampering of results tallying and transmission infrastructure.

Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court David Maraga ordered the polls body to conduct fresh presidential elections within 60 days.

Following the ruling, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that repeat presidential polls would be held on Oct. 26 and only Kenyatta and Odinga could participate in the re-run as provided for in the constitution.

Kenya has been under the grip of unprecedented political crisis since the nullification of presidential elections results, posing new threats to the country's stability, cohesion and economic development.

While Kenyatta and his lieutenants in the ruling Jubilee Coalition have insisted they are prepared for the repeat presidential polls, their rivals in the opposition had earlier vowed to opt out of the race if their demands for "minimum reforms" at the IEBC were not met.

On Tuesday, Odinga said the electoral agency had squandered an opportunity to undertake institutional and personnel changes in consultation with major players in the repeat presidential race.

"We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel to ensure that the illegalities and irregularities that led to the invalidation of the Aug. 8 polls do not happen again," said Odinga.

He also took issue with amendments to the elections laws championed by lawmakers allied to ruling Jubilee coalition, saying that they were meant to undermine fairness and transparency in the electoral process.

Odinga's withdrawal from the presidential re-run, though anticipated, has opened another chapter of uncertainties for Kenya's body politic, economy, social cohesion and diplomatic engagement.

Pundits agreed that east Africa's largest economy was staring at a new wave of political stalemate that bodes ill for Kenya's ability to remain stable and hasten economic growth.

Nevertheless, they emphasized that Kenya's vibrant constitutional dispensation, coupled with strong independent institutions and the resilience of its citizens, would act as a bulwark against civil disruption in the wake of Odinga's withdrawal from presidential race.

The IEBC said Tuesday it's holding talks on the way forward.

"Following the withdrawal of the NASA presidential candidate, the commission and the legal team are meeting and will communicate way forward," the poll body said.

Earlier Chebukati said it did respond to the opposition's irreducible minimums and can guarantee the integrity of the fresh presidential election. He said the body was ready to deliver a credible election in strict compliance with the constitution.

In his reaction, Kenyatta said Odinga has exercised his constitutional right by withdrawing from the presidential race but said that the repeat poll will go on as planned by the IEBC.

He criticized Odinga for waiting until more than 120 million U.S. dollars has been spent to organize the election before reaching the withdrawal.

Kenyatta expressed confidence that Kenyans will rally behind him as they did in the Aug. 8 general election.

Source:xinhua Editor:Dylan
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