All eight candidates for the Kenya presidential election that was annulled can participate in the new vote later this month, the election commission announced Wednesday, saying opposition leader Raila Odinga is still considered a candidate because he hasn’t turned in the required withdrawal form.
The announcement came hours after a high court decision to allow candidate Ekuru Aukot, who received just 27,000 votes of the 15 million cast in August’s election.
The Oct. 26 vote at first was limited to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose legal challenge of the August vote led the Supreme Court to annul it over “irregularities.” Odinga withdrew his candidature Tuesday, citing a lack of election commission reforms.
No candidate aside from Kenyatta and Odinga had received even 1 percent of the vote in August. Odinga’s withdrawal threw East Africa’s largest economy into confusion as Kenyans wondered how the new vote would go ahead.
Also Wednesday, lawmakers approved amendments to the electoral law pushed by the ruling party and criticized by the opposition and Western diplomats as making elections more difficult to annul and having fewer safeguards against fraud. The amendments still require Kenyatta’s approval.
Elsewhere in Nairobi, police used tear gas to disperse thousands of opposition protesters who regrouped outside the election commission’s offices and demanded reforms. In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city, four people with gunshot wounds were admitted to hospitals after police used live ammunition to disperse protesters, a police official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.
The Supreme Court last month rejected the August election in which Kenyatta was declared the winner after Odinga challenged the results, saying hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system to manipulate the vote. Kenyatta had won 54 percent of the votes. The court ordered a new vote within 60 days.
Odinga then surprised Kenyans by withdrawing, saying the new vote risked having the same problems.
Kenyatta, who called the Supreme Court judges “crooks” after their ruling, has said he does not want changes to the commission. His Jubilee Party has instead has used its parliamentary majority to push for the changes to the electoral law.
Diplomats including the United States ambassador this month said the proposed amendments put at risk the election commission’s “ability to conduct a better election” and unnecessarily increase political tensions.
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