How Kenya’s election ‘wound the democratic clock backwards’



Kenya held a rerun of its presidential election on Thursday, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent, will undoubtedly get the most votes, notes Kenyan human rights lawyer Maina Kiai. Under the circumstances, though, that hardly is a crowning achievement, he writes for The New York Times:

Thursday’s vote was supposed to be a corrective for the election held in August, which was invalidated by the Supreme Court after the opposition leader Raila Odinga called it fraudulent and questioned its constitutionality. But earlier this month, citing the failure to fix the systematic flaws he had denounced, Mr. Odinga announced that he was withdrawing from the latest race and called on his supporters to boycott the voting on Thursday. (His name was nonetheless kept on the ballot.)

The low turnout was “probably due to the [opposition] boycott and because some [Kenyatta] supporters might have thought that because it was a ‘one-horse’ race they didn’t really have to go out and vote,” said Regina Opondo, the chair of the Elections Observation Group, a consortium of Kenyan civil society organisations.

The “events of the last week wound the democratic clock backwards,” said Duncan Otieno, an independent analyst. “They risk taking the country back to the 1990s and the one-party state, when you’re either supporting the government or you’re not,” he told The FT. 

Thankfully, Mr. Odinga has eschewed the use of violence so far, adds Kiai (left), who served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in 2011–17:

This week he transformed the opposition coalition into the National Resistance Movement, vowing to engage in civil disobedience. But we can be certain that any protests and other disruptions will make the country ungovernable in the coming weeks. And we should fear that the government will respond excessively, viciously and brutally, as it has done in the past.


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