C&B Notes

Democracy is Hard…

…but worth it.  Kenya’s election results from late this summer were nullified by the country’s top courts — the first time ever on the African continent that the re-election of an incumbent has been overturned.  While the election is far from a finished matter, this type of effective government functioning across branches, not to mention parties and candidates, is an encouraging sign.  And it is a prerequisite for having stable political systems that will draw foreign capital and promote economic growth.

Kenya’s top court nullified last month’s presidential election, upholding the main opposition’s complaint that Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory was aided by rigging in a shock decision that’s unprecedented in Africa.  The electoral authority failed to conduct the ballot in line with the constitution, Chief Justice David Maraga told a packed courtroom in the capital, Nairobi, on Friday.  He ordered a new vote to be held within 60 days, sparking dancing and singing in the streets outside the court and opposition strongholds in the city’s slums.  “This is really a great day for Africa,” said Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the Johannesburg-based South African Institute for International Affairs.  “Kenya is a very, very important country for the continent. It is very important that it functions along democratic lines for it to be stable.”

“A re-run of the election will contribute to more uncertainty and prolong any return to business-as-usual, allowing the focus to shift back to the economy,” Khan said.  “Longer term, however, the Supreme Court decision will be seen as strengthening Kenya’s institutions, an important step forward for the overall development of the country.”   The government expects growth to slow to 5.5 percent this year, from 5.8 percent in 2016.

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Lawyers acting for opposition leader Raila Odinga’s five-party National Super Alliance argued that the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission’s computer systems were hacked to secure Kenyatta a second term.  Vote tallies didn’t correlate with results released at polling stations and requisite forms weren’t available to authenticate the outcome, they said.  A big question mark hangs over the electoral commission, which the court said had failed in its mission to deliver a fair vote and will be responsible for holding a new one.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati told reporters that the commission is awaiting the court’s written judgment before making any decisions about what action it will take after the ruling.  Odinga, a former prime minister, waged unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 1997, 2007 and 2013.  The Supreme Court threw out his allegations of rigging in the 2013 vote that propelled Kenyatta to power, a ruling Odinga has previously described as a “travesty of justice.”

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“For the first time in the history of the democratization of Africa, the court has nullified the election of a president,” Odinga said outside the court on Friday.                                                                         Kenyatta said that while he doesn’t support the ruling, he will respect it.  “I disagree with it because, as I have said, millions of Kenyans queued, made their choice and six people have decided that they will go against the will of the people,” he said in a televised address.  The ruling increases the likelihood of a violent crisis in Kenya, John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said in an emailed note.  “The new vote will be very tense,” he said.  “The ruling leaves the authorities with little time to improve or reform the scandal-plagued election commission, which may throw doubt on the result.  Opposition supporters — whose distrust in the voting system appears to have been validated — may see another win for president Kenyatta as proof that the authorities are conspiring against them.”


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