Kenyan Opposition Leader Withdraws From Presidential Poll

Raila Odinga, the Kenyan opposition leader on Tuesday said he would not stand in a court-ordered re-run of August’s presidential election that is scheduled for Oct. 26. Odinga says the polls would not be fair or free.

However, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the election would proceed as planned and he was sure that he would win again, despite his only challenger, Odinga withdrawing. Kenyatta also cited that the majority of his party won in both houses of parliament and among the country’s 47 governors.

“We have no problem going back to elections. We are sure we will get more votes than the last time,” Kenyatta said in the southern town of Voi on local television.

The announcements have prolonged the political uncertainty that has worried citizens and blunted growth in Kenya which is East Africa’s biggest economy.

A nationwide protest has been scheduled for Wednesday by Senator James Orengo, who is a key ally of Odinga, raising the potential of violent clashes between police and protesters.

“Tomorrow all over the country there are going to be demonstrations the basis will be no reforms, no elections,” Orengo said.

After the 2007 presidential election, 1,200 people were killed in protests and ethnic violence. However, for now, there is little sign that the demonstrations could boil over into ethnic clashes.

Odinga criticized the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), for not replacing some officials, who he believes is responsible for irregularities in the August poll.

“Following the withdrawal of the NASA presidential candidate, the Commission and the legal team are meeting and will communicate way forward,” the IEBC said on Twitter after Odinga spoke.

“There is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and parts of the personnel to ensure that the illegalities and irregularities that led to the invalidation of 8th of August do not happen again,” Odinga told a news conference in the capital of Nairobi.

“Indications are that elections scheduled for the 26th of August will be worse than the previous one,” he said. “In the interest of the people of Kenya, the region and world at large, we believe that all will be best served by (opposition alliance) NASA vacating the presidential candidature of elections.”

On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court nullified incumbent Kenyatta’s win on Aug. 8 due to procedural irregularities and ordered a new poll pitting Kenyatta against Odinga to be held within 60 days.

Since then, teargas has been used repeatedly by police to disperse small protests by the opposition who demand that the election board changes some officials.

On Tuesday, opposition legislators boycotted the ruling party’s session as they were debating proposed amendments to the election laws, which said if a candidate boycotted an election, the remaining candidate automatically wins.

The draft amendments require another reading and a presidential signature before they become law.

Ruling party legislators said that the amendments were designed to head off a constitutional crisis if Odinga pulled out of the election.

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