Kenya faces praise, uncertainty after election overturned

Kenya faces praise, uncertainty after election overturned
Supporters of Kenya’s opposition party (NASA) celebrate on the streets.

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Praise poured in Saturday for Kenya’s judiciary after a historic ruling annulling presidential poll results, as attention turned to how discredited officials will organise a new vote in only two months.

Kenya’s press and diplomats hailed the Supreme Court decision to annul last month’s presidential poll as a hard-fought victory for the rule of law, and sign of a maturing democracy.

Pointing to widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of vote results, Chief Justice David Maraga on Friday declared President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory “invalid, null and void”.

He called for a new election by October 31 in an unexpected ruling in favour of veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga that stunned the nation.

An editorial in the Nation newspaper said the ruling “signalled the end of the era of impunity that has painfully assailed this country for too long.”

“Kenyans have struggled for decades to institutionalise the rule of law. We have fought, shed blood, lost lives and property in search of constitutional order,” the paper said.

“Intrinsic in this is the desire to establish independent institutions that provide checks and balances against each other.”

Writing in the Star, the president of the Law Society of Kenya Isaac Okero said every election except that in 2002 had been plagued by “complaints, irregularities, suspicion of impropriety” that no court had been willing to properly tackle.

The paper’s editorial said the decision “will reverberate for years to come in Kenya and around the continent”.

A joint statement by ambassadors to Kenya praised “Kenya’s resilient democracy and commitment to the rule of law.”

The diplomats urged institutions to work to make the new election fair and credible, adding that “all electoral processes can be improved”.

– ‘Unimaginable’ task ahead –

It is the first time a presidential election result has been overturned in Africa. Similar court rulings have been seen in Austria, Haiti, Ukraine, Serbia and the Maldives.

The press also raised prickly questions about the weeks to come.

Odinga has declared the loss of all confidence in the electoral commission (IEBC), and demanded its commissioners resign.

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