The head of Kenya’s electoral commission says just one-third of registered voters cast ballots yesterday in a controversial rerun of the presidential election.
That’s far lower than the reported nearly 80 percent turnout the first time the election took place, in August.
The poll was met by clashes and violence in some areas of the country. The electoral commission tweeted that 5,319 polling stations “either didn’t open or did not manage to send the ‘we’ve opened signal,’ ” while 35,564 opened as usual.
The commission initially said that turnout was estimated at 48 percent — then, commission head Wafula Chebukati tweeted that that figure was a “BEST estimate.” He said that the one-third turnout was the “latest actual figure.”
This wide discrepancy has obviously sparked questions. But as Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported, Chebukati “left a trail of loose ends as he refused to take questions from journalists at the press conference and despite promising that he would answer all questions, walked away without doing so.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in August against opposition leader Raila Odinga. Then, the Supreme Court nullified that result over irregularities.
“Odinga first dropped out of the second presidential race and then called for a boycott, saying he was sure the elections would be rigged,” NPR’s Eyder Peralta reported. “It’s thrown the country into political crisis. … The Supreme Court failed to decide some key cases because they couldn’t get enough judges to show up.”
Officials had planned to try to reopen polls in opposition strongholds on Saturday, Eyder added, but later postponed because of security concerns. It’s not clear when officials will try to resume voting.
Those plans have been met with skepticism by some officials, such as Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the governor of Kisumu County, according to The Associated Press. He described the idea of opening polls as a “joke,” suggesting that it could lead to violence by police against protesters. If the commission chief “wants to hold the election here, he is just going to cause more deaths,” Nyong’o said.
Some protests continued Friday, and Reuters reports that at least five people have been killed since the start of voting on Thursday.
This vote has an ethnic dynamic. As the AP notes, “Kenyatta, who got 54 percent of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu group; Odinga, who got nearly 45 percent in the earlier election, is a Luo.” Kenyatta is reported to be leading by a wide margin in the latest results, though the official figures have not yet been announced.
Like the first, this vote is open to legal challenges. Reuters notes that the fact that many polling stations did not open at all could be grounds to contest the result.
“The election obviously did not conform to constitutional requirements,” James Orengo, co-chair of the opposition legal team, told the wire service. He said they hadn’t decided yet whether to file a lawsuit.