Political stalemate in Kenya enters defining moment

2017-10-13 02:27:51 GMT2017-10-13 10:27:51(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NAIROBI, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's political standoff enters a dicey moment as the Opposition and the ruling Jubilee Party dig in for the repeat polls set for Oct. 26.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the polls on Tuesday citing failure to effect changes at the electoral body and forced amendments to election regulations by the ruling Jubilee party, whose passage in Parliament is near completion. President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to sign them into law immediately.

Odinga asked the electoral commission to cancel the Oct. 26 poll and call for a fresh one in 90 days. But in a rejoinder, Kenyatta maintained that elections would be held as scheduled whether Odinga participates or not.

The position was reaffirmed on Wednesday after the electoral commission announced that the elections would go on as planned and Odinga's name, together with those of the other fringe contestants who took part in the Aug. 8 polls, would be on the ballot.

This followed a court ruling Wednesday that the name of one of the contestants who the electoral commission had excluded from repeat polls be included in the fresh elections.

However, Odinga's party National Super Alliance (NASA) has maintained that there would be no elections on Oct. 26.

"The Oct. 26 polls died when Odinga withdrew on Tuesday. You cannot resurrect them. Elections will only take place on Oct. 26 if there are reforms at the electoral commission," said Gladys Wanga, a NASA lawmaker.

On Wednesday, NASA leaders called for daily protests starting next week against the electoral commission and to push for the sacking of officials who bungled the Aug. 8 polls.

The government, on Thursday, however, banned demonstrations in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu central business districts, with the Interior minister promising the police would take legal action against NASA for destruction of property.

Otiende Amollo, an MP and NASA lawyer, however said Thursday that demonstrations would continue; that government directive banning them is unlawful and they will protect their right to picket.

The move sets the stage for confrontation between the police and demonstrators beginning Friday when NASA would hold protests. The turn of events portends interesting times for Kenya as the country gravitates towards the Oct. 26 polls.

Senator James Orengo, who was the lead counsel for Odinga in the Supreme Court petition, informed supporters Thursday that the battle for free and fair elections had just started and Jubilee should be ready for a tough fight.

"Don't panic by the polls body's announcement, our moves are well-calculated and we knew that Jubilee was going to try and use any means to rig polls and swear in Kenyatta. But we sealed the loophole before we announced withdrawal from polls. Let them continue making mistakes, we understand the constitution," said Orengo as he assured supporters following the announcement that Oct. 26 polls would go on.

Aaron Cheruiyot, a Jubilee senator, noted that the party would not back down on its quest to amend electoral laws despite Opposition protests.

"Senate on Thursday passed election amendment laws before Odinga signs Form 24 as asked by the electoral commission," he said, highlighting the political games the two rivals are engaged in.

A major thing the law recommends is the swearing in of Kenyatta if a candidate withdraws from polls, what NASA has named as Jubilee's quest to get power at all costs and behind the doors.

Aden Duale, the Majority Leader in the National Assembly, while reinforcing Jubilee's position observed that NASA has no choice but to join in the elections.

"Election commission must now finalize preparations for the Oct. 26 poll and inform Kenyans of it in readiness for the occasion. It must also be noted that Odinga did not withdraw his candidature by following the legally prescribed format through Form 24A," he noted, maintaining a hardline position.

"It's Odinga's right to withdraw from the fresh elections. It's also the Kenyan people's right to elect their president on Oct. 26," he added.

Analysts noted that next week would be a defining moment in the history of the East African nation as time nears the polls.

"We expect Kenyatta to sign into law the election laws angering the opposition, which would step up protests ignoring the ban by government. This means protesters would clash with police. While no one expects bloody scenes, it may lead to a dark moment for Kenya as polls would be a week away," said Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi, adding the Kenyatta and Odinga should initiate talks to end the standoff.

 

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