Inside Politics

Why State House hopefuls face bumpy road after polls

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022 00:59 | By
A voter casts her vote in a past election. PHOTO/File

Everything being constant, one man and his running mate will be declared winners of the presidential election on August 13, four days after voters go to the polls on August 9. 

Two men stand on the cusps of savouring this victory—Raila Odinga, the Azimio-One Kenya presidential hopeful and William Ruto, the Deputy President and State House aspirant on a Kenya Kwanza Alliance ticket.

This week, both men named formidable politicians as running mates—Martha Karua for Raila and Rigathi Gachagua for Ruto. Although the battle lines have been drawn and the runners have already started the race, the two tickets have until end of the month before the official campaign period kicks in. But that will be the easier part.

As the history of Kenyan elections has shown, the more difficult assignment will start once the votes have been cast and the counting begins. Since 2002, when Kenya held its first multi-party election, counting and tallying of votes has been the most problematic aspect of elections.

No sooner is a winner announced than those who lose out take to the streets – and the courts – to challenge the outcome. 

Assuming that this year, politicians maintain the trend, voters can expect that on August 20, the Supreme Court is likely to receive a petition challenging declaration of the August presidential election, according to one scenario.

Televised ruling

As happened in 2017 and 2013, the Supreme Court will have 14 days to make a determination. In 2013, the then President of the Apex  court, Justice Willy Mutuanga, made a five-minute televised ruling before the entire bench sat to read out the judges’ respective rulings. 

They upheld that year’s results declaration. In 2017, however, the Supreme Court sat and judges gave their detailed rulings on the same day, effectively making history by becoming among the first countries in Africa to annual a presidential election. 

Led by then Chief Justice David Maraga, four of the judges found the election wanting, declared it “null and void” and ordered a repeat one 60 days. Two judges dissented. And with that verdict, voters were sent back to the polling booths.

Should this scenario replicate itself after the August polls, the Supreme Court will have until September 3 to make a verdict.

If the judges uphold the numbers declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, then one of the two front-runner tickets will be sworn in on September 13 as stipulated in the Constitution.

On the one hand, Ruto has promised that he will sign an executive order on the first day giving more powers to his Deputy. 

“I have every intention, from my first day in office, to sign an executive order … to provide an expanded role for the office of the Deputy President of Kenya,” Ruto said on Sunday when he unveiled Rigathi.

Raila on the other hand, has already allocated his deputy the role of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Cabinet Secretary, mandating her to spearhead a review of the Constitution.

“I want her to finalise the unfinished business of making our Constitution,” Raila said on Monday.

Both took an optimistic view of the road ahead. However, there could be more bumps if everything does not go as planned, according to a scenario seen by People Daily. Should the August election be annulled and the Supreme Court orders a fresh one, the electoral commission will have until October 3 to hold a fresh poll. This will translate to a longer wait for the presidential hopefuls to take over power from the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Fair victory

According to one expert, IEBC would have until October 7 to announce a winner. If the election will not be challenged, then the winners can breath easy and head to the Bomas of Kenya to collect their certificates from Wafula Chebukati, the Returning Officer of the presidential election.

Woe unto them, however, if the losers still feel that they have been denied a fair victory for they will still have one more chance to go back to the Supreme Court.

The last time judges ruled that the presidential election was void; they argued that IEBC had not followed the law and had not done enough to ensure the election was conducted transparently.

IEBC, Justice Maraga said, had failed “to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution.”

Since that verdict, IEBC has been keen to be operating in compliance with various judgments rendered by courts, all of which are aimed at making the election credible and transparent. 

However, if the repeat election is challenged, that would mean yet another run-off that can only be held on December 28.

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