Kenya braces for poll-linked crisis as Raila rejects results

Defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga (R) speaks during a press conference, flanked by his running mate Martha Karua (L), at KICC on August 16, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

Kenya's economy is bracing for a new election-related paralysis after opposition leader Raila Odinga rejected the declaration of Deputy President William Ruto as the winner of last week’s polls, signalling another Supreme Court battle.

The Azimio presidential candidate on Tuesday vowed to launch a legal challenge to annul the results as declared by a split Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Kenya’s law provides presidential election losers with a chance to appeal at the Supreme Court within seven days in a legal process that can extend the electioneering period by more than two months.

It could be weeks before a new president is sworn in, spurring fears of unrest against a backdrop of soaring food prices and high levels of public debt.

The uncertainty looks set to dampen investor activity and freeze government spending that is necessary for driving demand for goods and employment in the economy.

After a fiercely fought electoral campaign, Dr Ruto got 50.49 percent of the votes, while Mr Odinga, who was backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, garnered 48.8 percent, according to the results announced by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Mr Odinga accused Mr Chebukati of unilaterally declaring the winner despite protests from four commissioners who walked out claiming the process was opaque.

“We are pursuing constitutional and lawful channels and processes to invalidate Mr Chebukati’s illegal and unconstitutional pronouncement. We are certain that justice will prevail,” Mr Odinga said.

He has until next Monday to file a challenge with the Supreme Court.

Kenya’s economic activity has a history of slowing down in election years since the return of multi-party democracy more than 30 years ago.

Analysis of growth trends since 1992 shows the momentum in economic activities has softened 2.83 percent on average in election years and recovered by an average of 2.08 percent in the year after the election fever.

Speaking for the four commissioners, IEBC deputy chairperson Juliana Cherera said the results showing Ruto winning with 50.49 percent were erroneously aggregated.

Ms Cherera later said one of her main claims was based on a mathematical error.

She had originally highlighted that the vote percentages for the race's four candidates added up to 100.01 percent, saying the additional 0.01 percent represented 142,000 votes, enough to potentially sway the election.

Ruto defeated Odinga by about 233,000 votes.

Ms Cherera later acknowledged that 0.01 percent of the 14.2 million votes cast was actually 1,420, but said the tally still showed a lack of quality control of the data.

Dr Ruto’s team dismissed the 100.01 percent saying it was a factor of the rounding off.

The legal battle threatens to upend businesses’ hope to shake off election jitters after the country saw a return to normalcy a day after the announcement of the results.

Nairobi witnessed light traffic as retail shops, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels opened and most workers were back at their jobs.

Some companies like financial services provider Britam sent out a notice that their staff would work from home besides urging customers to use their self-service mobile application.

The post-election period has largely been peaceful so far in a country where street protests and clashes usually follow result announcements.

“Since the election on August 9 business has been very slow, sales have dropped by almost 70 percent and yesterday (Monday) I had to close for the [results] announcement because there were no customers at all. We are hoping things will start to pick up next week now that people have taken the results maturely and everything is calm,” said Obado Obado, owner of a popular city restaurant Café Deli.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.