NAIROBI — Kenya’s electoral authorities said on Wednesday they had not received formal notice that opposition leader Raila Odinga had quit the presidential race re-run set for October 26, so regarded all original candidates as still on the slate. Kenya’s Supreme Court last month annulled an apparent victory by incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta in August polls, citing widespread counting irregularities and mismanagement by election officials, calling for a re-run within 60 days.
Then on Tuesday, Kenyatta’s main challenger Odinga plunged the country into uncharted waters by saying he was pulling out, accusing the election commission (IEBC) of failing to deliver vital reforms. In its statement on Wednesday, the IEBC said its position was that the new vote “shall include all the eight candidates who participated in the 8th August [election]”. Though the commission took note of a letter from Odinga and his running mate announcing their withdrawal, it said the men had not submitted the official form to do so.
“Once the commission receives the requisite notice from any of the candidates, it will process the same in accordance with the… law,” IEBC said. Odinga says he is not giving up on standing entirely, but that withdrawing now is necessary to ensure a free and fair election.
The opposition view is that a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court means if any candidate withdraws, the IEBC must conduct fresh poll nominations, beginning the whole process over again. The commission said it understood the anxiety surrounding the electoral procedure — earlier, eight people were hurt after Kenyan police fired teargas in running battles with opposition protesters who burned tyres and lobbed stones.
“We appeal for calm and dialogue among all players to ensure that elections are successfully held and for the country to move forward,” the commission concluded. Even so, it remained unclear whether, once Odinga’s withdrawal from the race is finalised, that would force the October 26 re-run to be scrapped or whether it would simply go ahead without him.