Rerun polls will hold despite Odinga boycott – Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday said a re-run of the  presidential election would go ahead on Oct. 26 despite the boycott by  opposition leader Raila Odinga.

“We have no problem going back to elections. We are sure we will get more votes than the last time,” Kenyatta told a rally in the southern town of Voi, speaking in Kiswahili.

Odinga had announced his withdrawal from the elections at a news conference in Nairobi.

He said  he was boycotting the polls because his demands for electoral reform had not been met.

A re-run of the presidential vote was announced after Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the result of the Aug. 8 election due to Odinga’s complaint.

Odinga claimed that the computers of the electoral commission had been hacked to generate a victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The initial results announced on Aug. 11, gave Kenyatta a second term with 54 per cent of the votes, followed by Odinga with 44.7 per cent.

Since the annulment, Odinga and his National Super Alliance coalition (NASA) have been demanding the removal of top managers of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and a change of suppliers of polling materials and technology.

In a related development, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday expressed strong support for amendments to electoral laws being debated in parliament.

Kenyatta, who spoke in Mombasa, said the laws will fill the gaps identified by the Supreme Court when it annulled the Aug. 8, Presidential elections.

He promised to sign into law the controversial amendments that have sparked criticism once approved by the Parliament.

“I will not hesitate, for even a minute, to sign the new amendments into law once presented to me after debate and approval by parliament,” Kenyatta said.

The proposed changes to the electoral laws by the ruling party Jubilee has created division among Kenyans ahead of repeat polls slated for Oct. 26.

While some, in particular Kenyatta’s supporters, endorsed the changes, those supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga opposed the amendments of being a rigging plot.

One of the radical changes Jubilee proposes is that if only one candidate remains in a fresh presidential election, he will be declared president-elect without polls being held.

The bill, currently in Parliament, further proposes a custodial sentence of up to 15 years for any electoral officials, who knowingly refuses to sign, submits incomplete forms or willfully alters or falsifies documents relating to elections.

It also proposes to strip the powers of announcing the winner of a presidential poll from the chairman of the electoral commission to any other commissioner.

According to sections of the proposed new laws, the IEBC would be required to live stream the election results but they would not form the basis of declaring the winner, but only for public consumption, while the results would be declared manually based on paper returns.

Kenyatta said it was necessary to remove the lacuna in law cited by the Supreme Court in order to ensure the same gaps did not force the Court to deliver a similar dubious verdict in future.

A select committee of both houses of parliament is due to present the amendments to parliament this week for debate and approval.

 

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