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 former 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 Ezra Chiloba, have also placed them at loggerheads with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party.
“As things stand now, most of the people who ran the August 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.”
While Kenyatta accepted the ruling, he’s criticised the decision by calling the judges “crooks” and saying he plans to “fix” the court if he is re-elected.
He also threatened to impeach Odinga if the opposition leader wins, using the ruling Jubilee Party’s parliamentary majority.
Odinga’s alliance alleged that computer systems were tampered with and vote tallies were altered to ensure the re-election of Kenyatta, 55, last month.
On September 1 the Supreme Court ruled that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution”.
It has yet to release its detailed findings. Former Kenyan justice minister Martha Karua has asked the High Court to invalidate the outcome of the entire election, including the gubernatorial, senatorial and parliamentary votes, the Nairobi-based Star newspaper reported, citing court documents.
Wafula Chebukati, the commission’s chairman, said the body was committed to holding a lawful vote and replaced six of its top managers, including the heads of operations, information technology and the national tallying centre.
The managers who mishandled the previous election refused to resign, according to IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe.
On September 5 Chebukati wrote to Chiloba asking him why a computer user-name had been created in his name without his consent and to explain the failure of the election results transmission system and other hitches during the initial vote.
Four commissioners said on September 7 the electoral body hadn’t sanctioned the letter and most of the issues raised by the chairman “are not factual”.
Odinga’s alliance, known as Nasa, said it would be untenable to stage the rerun on October 17 if the apparent conflict within the electoral commission isn’t resolved.
“It shows the commission is unable to carry out its constitutional functions without regard to political interests or causes that undermine its authority and mandate,” Musalia Mudavadi, a top Nasa official, said in a letter to Chebukati.
“The problem is systematic and grave and it has thrown the electoral process into a cesspool.”
Tushar Kanti Saha, a law professor at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, said the divisions within the commission and unresolved logistical and information-technology challenges have cast doubt over whether the election rerun will take place.
“If it is held, then the question of credibility will still arise,” he said.
“I am not sure what direction it is going to take. It is very uncertain.”