Kenya’s Opposition Walks Out of Talks on Election Do-Over

by Bloomberg

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NAIROBI – Kenya’s main opposition coalition walked out of negotiations on how a rerun of last month’s annulled presidential election will be managed and threatened street protests, setting back preparations for the Oct. 26 ballot.

The officials quit the talks because of plans by the ruling Jubilee Party to remove powers from the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission, James Orengo, a senator for the opposition National Super Alliance, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Nairobi. Proposed changes to the law include enabling commissioners to appoint a new chairman and reducing the number of people required to make a quorum, according to a copy of the bill provided by government spokesman Eric Kiraithe’s office.

“This law is going to create a lame-duck commission,” Orengo said. “We are left with no alternative but to walk out of this meeting,” he said, adding that negotiations “at this stage are an exercise in futility.”

The commission began talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and opposition leader Raila Odinga’s alliance on Wednesday to discuss how the authority will manage the rerun that’s scheduled for Oct. 26. The new vote is being held after the Supreme Court annulled the Aug. 8 presidential election because the commission committed “irregularities and illegalities.” The opposition has demanded the electoral body be overhauled and different systems be used for the new vote, proposals that the Jubilee Party rejects.

Supporters of the five-party opposition coalition will begin demonstrations on Oct. 2 and hold protests every Monday and Friday until its demands are met, Odinga said Thursday.

“We have no other options but to take the battle to the people,” he said in comments broadcast live on television. “I call upon this generation to resist. They must arise and resist an attempt to take them back to single-party dictatorship.”

Investor Uncertainty

Uncertainty about the new election is unnerving investors and clouding the outlook for an economy that’s already slowing. Kenya is a regional hub for companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and is on the cusp of becoming an oil producer, with Tullow Oil Plc among firms that are developing the discovery of at least 1 billion barrels of crude resources.

“At the rate at which we are going, there is no progress” on how the commission will handle the rerun, said Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari. “The implication is that we are not having an election.”

Yields on Kenya 2024 Eurobonds rose for a fourth day on Thursday to the highest in almost two months, bringing the increase since the Sept. 1 court decision to 56 basis points. The Kenyan shilling has eased 0.3 percent against the dollar in that period. Previous disputes over elections in Kenya have led to violence, the most serious being in 2007, when clashes left more than 1,100 people dead and forced 350,000 more to flee their homes. That resulted in growth slumping to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier.

The proposed changes to the electoral laws will leave the IEBC in “a precarious situation,” Chairman Wafula Chebukati told reporters in Nairobi.

“It will take us backwards,” he said. “We have identified the areas we need to work on. We don’t need any law to make us move forward.”

The proposed law changes come after Kenyatta, who was declared the victor of last month’s vote, derided the court’s annulment as a “judicial coup” and branded its judges “crooks.”

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