NAIROBI – Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday from the repeat presidential election scheduled for Oct. 26, claiming that the electoral commission had not reformed in line with a top court order to ensure against a recurrence of irregularities and illegalities.
Odinga, leader of the center-left National Super Alliance coalition (NASA), confirmed his decision during a press conference just two weeks before Kenyans were due to return to the polls to rectify the Aug. 8 election which was nullified by the Supreme Court after it found that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission failed to hold the election in accordance with the constitution and election laws.
“After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election, considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large, we believe that all will be best served by NASA vacating its presidential candidature in the election scheduled for Oct. 26, 2017,” Odinga told reporters, adding that his running mate Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka was also stepping out of the race.
The current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared the winner of the annulled Aug. 8, with a margin of 1.4 million votes.
Upon hearing the news, Kenyatta said that the election re-run would be carried out as scheduled despite Odinga’s boycott.
“We are ready for an election whether he will be on the ballot or not. Yesterday, he said it is his democratic right not to participate, we tell him also, it is the people’s right to participate in an election; to choose their leaders,” Kenyatta said during a rally.
Odinga accused the IEBC of having no intention of ensuring the election re-run went ahead without the inconsistencies that led to the nullification of the initial vote.
“All indications are that the election scheduled for Oct. 26 will be worse than the previous one,” Odinga said, before turning his gaze to Kenyatta’s conservative Jubilee party, which he accused of only being interested in an election it would win, even unlawfully.
“On its part, the Jubilee administration’s proposed amendment to the election laws demonstrates that it has no intention of competition on a level playing field,” Odinga said.
But NASA said that pulling its candidates would force the IEBC to cancel the election re-run.
“It is clear that this provision gives adequate time to undertake the reforms necessary to conduct an election that is in strict conformity with the Constitution, the relevant law, and the Constitution,” Odinga said.