Kenya Opposition Takes to Streets as Election Decision Looms

NAIROBI (Capital Markets in Africa) – Kenyan police fired teargas at opposition supporters in two cities as the East African nation awaits the electoral commission’s response toRaila Odinga’s withdrawal from a presidential vote rerun that threatens a constitutional crisis.

Demonstrators marched in the capital, Nairobi, and the western city of Kisumu to protest what Odinga said is the electoral commission’s failure to ensure that the new vote ordered by the Supreme Court will be fair. The tribunal annulled the presidential election in August because it failed to comply with the constitution. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was declared the winner of that ballot, said Tuesday the rerun would go ahead, even with him as the sole candidate.

Opposition supporters hold up bricks as they block streets and burn tires during a protest in Kisumu

Kenyan stocks fell as much as 1.3 percent and yields on its Eurobonds rose 11 basis points by 5:22 p.m. in Nairobi as the opposition announcement clouded an already uncertain outlook for growth, which is slowing after a prolonged drought. East Africa’s biggest economy and the world’s largest tea exporter, Kenya is a regional hub for companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Electric Co.

“It is unclear how much more of a battering the economy can continue to withstand as a result of this election cycle,” said Ronak Gopaldas, a Johannesburg-based Africa strategist at FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank. “Having been in autopilot for the better part of the year, the continued politicking will sap confidence, while further delaying the urgent need for fiscal consolidation and policy reforms.”

Legal Quandary
Odinga’s withdrawal creates a unique legal quandary for Kenya. While its electoral law says that if one candidate withdraws the other will be declared the winner, the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that in such a scenario, fresh nominations need to be called. By withdrawing, Odinga is banking on the latter taking precedence.

Some protesters smashed storefront windows and the windshields of cars parked in Nairobi’s central business district during Wednesday’s demonstrations. The Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission is weighing the repercussions of Odinga’s announcement and will announce the way forward either later Wednesday or on Thursday, spokesman Andrew Limo said by phone. It began a meeting at 2 p.m.

A raft of controversial electoral amendments pushed through parliament by Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party could result in him declared the winner of the vote, though that move may be challenged in court, said Charles Kanjama, managing partner at Muma & Kanjama Advocates.

Escalating Tension
“There will be continued increased agitation which may weaken state institutions because neither political side wants to accept decisions from the IEBC or the Supreme Court,” he said.

Tension between members of the ruling Jubilee Party and the opposition National Super Alliance has escalated since Kenyatta’s 54 percent victory in the August vote was overturned — and the latest twist raises the specter of increased violence. While the vote four years ago passed relatively peacefully, more than 1,100 people were killed in turmoil sparked by a disputed 2007 result.

“Political temperatures are likely to rise and there is a high risk of violence from opposition supporters if Kenyatta is declared president,” said Dismas Mokua, an analyst at Nairobi-based risk advisory firm Trintari.

The opposition will hold daily protests starting next week, James Orengo, a senator in the opposition alliance, said at the rally in Nairobi.

Source: Bloomberg Business News


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