In Historic Ruling, Kenyan Court
Voids President’s Re-Election: Orders New Vote
NAIROBI, Kenya — In a historic ruling and a first in Africa, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified on Friday the re-election of a sitting president, ordering a new vote to be held within 60 days after finding that the outcome last month had been tainted by irregularities.
A new election was ordered to be held October 17. It was a stunning moment for Kenya, one of Africa’s most populous nations, and for democracy in general. Kenya’s disputed presidential election in 2007 set off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced around the country.
But this time, figures across the Kenyan political landscape, including the president whose victory was wiped away, appeared to accept the decision and called on supporters to do the same. Both the opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta called for calm. The ruling also offered a potent display of judicial independence on a continent where courts often come under intense pressure from political leaders, analysts said.
“It’s a historic moment showing the fortitude and courage of the Kenyan judiciary,” said Dickson Omondi, a country director for the National Democratic Institute, a nonpartisan organization that supports democratic institutions and practices worldwide. He said it was the first example in Africa in which a court nullified the re-election of an incumbent. The election on Aug. 8 was conducted peacefully and was largely praised by international observers. But David Maraga, the court’s chief justice, declared the result “invalid, null and void” after siding with the opposition, which had argued that the vote had been electronically manipulated to assure a victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr. Kenyatta, 55, had been re-elected with 54 percent of the vote, easily surpassing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. His main challenger, Raila Odinga, 72, who petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the election, had received about 44 percent, a difference of about 1.4 million votes. A parallel tally by domestic observers endorsed the official result.
The Supreme Court decision came as a surprise, even to Mr. Odinga and his supporters, who had complained about election irregularities. A top election official in charge of voting technology was killed about a week before the election, and although the casting of ballots went smoothly, the electronic transmission of vote tallies was flawed. -.NYT