Kenya vote in balance as crisis deepens after Odinga quits

NAIROBI: Kenya lurched deeper into political crisis on Wednesday as a court ruling and a parliamentary vote appeared to ease Uhuru Kenyatta’s path to a second term as president, a day after his rival quit an election they were to contest.
Kenyatta and Raila Odinga were due to face off in a repeat election on Oct 26, after the Supreme Court annulled their August ballot — in which the president was declared the winner — due to irregularities.
But Odinga pulled out of the re-run on Tuesday, fuelling doubts about whether it would be contested at all. Wednesday’s interventions by the judiciary and legislature added to the uncertainty.
As police used teargas to disperse opposition protesters demanding electoral reform, the High Court approved a petition by Ekuru Aukot, who polled less than 1 per cent in the August vote, to contest the second ballot.
Aukot has yet to announce if he will definitely run. Further muddying the political waters, parliament passed an election law amendment stating that if one candidate withdrew from the re-run election, the remaining one would automatically win. The vote was boycotted by opposition lawmakers.
That would mean Kenyatta could be declared president if he faced no challengers.
The events stoked confusion among voters and fears that politically-driven violence might escalate. Months of political uncertainty have already blunted growth in East Africa’s richest nation, a long-time ally of the West.
“There’s a real atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty. There seems to be dozens of opinions of what should come next,” said Murithi Mutiga, a senior Horn of Africa analyst for the global thinktank International Crisis Group. — Reuters