Kenya's defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga filed an electoral petition to the country's apex court on Monday, challenging the outcome of the August 9 election in what he called a fight for "democracy and good governance".
Odinga, a veteran opposition leader who ran with the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ruling party, has rejected the outcome of the poll that delivered victory to his rival William Ruto, branding it a "travesty". The bitter political rival has sought recourse from the country’s Supreme Court with a view to overturn Ruto’s victory.
The 77-year-old politician lost his fifth bid for the presidency by a narrow margin of around 230,000 votes, a tally of less than two percentage points. A multitude of Odinga’s supporters and sympathizers cheered as dozens of boxes of evidence were unloaded from a truck outside the Supreme Court.
"We have enough evidence that it is us who won the election. We didn't have an election we can be proud of," Odinga told a press conference after filing the case.
The outcome of the poll represented a "continuing struggle pitting the forces for democracy and good governance against the corruption cartels that... will stop at nothing to take control of government," he added, without furnishing specific details.
"The action we have taken... affirms our deep belief in constitutionalism, the rule of law and a peaceful resolution of disputes," emphasized the leader of the biggest opposition in Kenya.
Although polling day passed off peacefully, the announcement of the results a week ago sparked angry protests in some Odinga strongholds and there are fears a drawn-out dispute may lead to violence in a country with a history of post-poll unrest and politically motivated violence.
Since 2002, no presidential election in Kenya has gone uncontested, with this year's outcome also causing a rift within the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which oversaw the poll. Even the Commissioners charged with overseeing electoral processes in the country are not in unison with regards to the tallying and the results.
According to a copy of the 72-page petition seen by AFP, Odinga's team alleges that IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati failed to tally around 140,000 votes. Resultantly, according to Odinga, Ruto "did not meet the constitutional threshold of 50% plus 1 of the valid votes cast” which is the strict legal requirement for him to be declared the winner.
Legal experts are divided on whether Chebukati needed the commissioners’ backing to announce the results, with constitutional lawyer Charles Kanjama telling AFP there was “some ambiguity” surrounding the issue.
One of Odinga’s lawyers, James Orengo, expressed confidence in having successful days ahead in court. "I have participated in many petitions," he said. "This one, I can tell you, is a bombshell and we have so many smoking guns and I think at the conclusion of this petition, you are going to have a determination in favor of Raila Amolo Odinga."
Odinga accused the electoral commission of electoral offenses and malpractices. The opposition leader is not new to electoral petitions and is also confident that he can successfully overturn the outcome as he once did against Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 presidential race.
Odinga has previously said he was cheated of victory in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections, and the poll’s aftermath is being keenly watched as a test of democratic maturity in the East African powerhouse.
Judges now have 14 days to issue a ruling. If they order an annulment, a new vote must be held within 60 days from the date of the annulment.