Nairobi (AFP) – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew Tuesday from a re-run of the presidential election in the latest twist to a political saga that has plunged the nation into uncertainty.
Odinga, 72, said he was pulling out because Kenya’s election panel had failed to make vital reforms — but he indicated this did not mean his battle was over.
He cited legal arguments which his party believes will compel election officials to begin the whole process from scratch.
The Supreme Court stunned the nation last month when it annulled the August 8 election victory by President Uhuru Kenyatta, citing what it called widespread irregularities in the counting process.
Since then Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) have vowed not to take part in the re-run unless far-reaching changes are made to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel… All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one,” said Odinga.
“After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election… we believe that all will be best served by (the party) vacating its presidential candidature in the election.”
Odinga said he was not giving up entirely, but that his move was the only way to ensure a free and fair election.
Leaning on a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court, the opposition said that if a candidate withdraws, then the IEBC is required to conduct fresh nominations for the presidency.
“It is clear that this provision gives adequate time to undertake the reforms necessary to conduct an election that is in strict conformity with the Constitution,” NASA said in a statement.
The legal validity of this argument is likely to be subject to heated debate.
Kenyatta said he was not deterred by Odinga’s decision.
“We are ready to vote… we are ready for elections… it is democratic his…