Published On: Tue, Oct 24th, 2017

Divisive polls offer Kenya democracy a stern test

RAND Merchant Bank (RMB)

NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – THURSDAY’S presidential election in Kenya is set to be another litmus test to the East African country’s democracy.
The election rerun is set to proceed after what an analyst described as a series of controversies and false starts.
However, according to Rand Merchant Bank Africa strategist, Ronak Gopaldas, the poll would be tainted by major credibility and legitimacy issues, taking place amid a highly fractured political environment, which has seen the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, declare his intention to boycott the race.
“It has been roller coaster ride since the Supreme Court judgement in September, which shocked the country and continent,” Gopaldas said.
The Supreme Court annulled the outcome of the poll held in August citing irregularities.
Gopaldas noted ongoing legal and political wrangling, a postponement from the initial date, Odinga’s boycot, and proclamations by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission itself that the poll will not be credible, had cast a dark shadow over the ballot.
“Indeed, the election will take place even as the chief executive of the electoral commission has gone on leave, with another commissioner resigning and fleeing the country last week,” the analyst said.
The analysts said Thursday’s poll means a constitutional crisis would be averted but concern remained around issues of legitimacy.
If incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta again wins the election and assumes office under such controversial circumstances, his ascent would be tainted by both the Supreme Court judgement as well as the non-participation of his long-time rival.
“Furthermore, we are concerned that political leaders continue to say and do things which are incongruent with the execution of a peaceful vote, and that this will spill over into the public domain,” Gopaldas said.
He said the risk of violence was certainly more pronounced now than during the August election.
“Much will depend on the conduct of the politicians and the police in limiting the fallout during this volatile period.”
It was unclear this week if Odinga would boycott or participate.
He said he would announce “the way forward” on the eve of the election, having previously called for mass protests on the day of the vote.
“This has raised the possibility of him participating. After all, he officially remains on the ballot. This adds another layer of intrigue and suspense to an already confusing political dynamic,” Gopaldas added.
The analyst pointed out if the poll proceeds, it will be a tight race.
“This election cycle has continued to surprise us with a series of wildcard events which have made it difficult to predict outcomes with any degree of conviction.”
– CAJ News

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