Kenya’s Supreme Court Orders Partial Recount Before Ruling on Vote Challenge

Kenya’s Supreme Court today ordered a recount of the ballots cast at 22 polling stations during  presidential elections held earlier this month. The  court is considering a petition filed by outgoing Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga that challenges his election loss to Uhuru Kenyatta.

“The re-tally shall aim at establishing whether the number of votes cast in each of these 22 polling stations exceeds the number of registered voters,” Justice Smokin Wanjala said at a pretrial hearing today in Nairobi.

On the March 4 election, a record 86 percent of 14.3 million registered voters cast ballots at about 31,000 stations.

The six-judge panel has until Saturday to decide whether Kenyatta should be confirmed as president or whether new elections should take place.

During turbulent 2007 elections, 1,200 people were killed and thousands more displaced. Kenyans are nervous about holding yet another election in such a tense atmosphere, after managing to get through the March 4 balloting with a minimum of violence.

The court ordered the nation’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to provide the voter registration list it used to count votes after an electronic system failed.

“We order the IEBC to provide the principal voter register in its entirety,” said Judge Njoki Ndung’u.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said that the court would treat the petitions before it “with objectivity, and we shall render our judgment without fear or favor.”

“You must trust us to do our jobs,” he said. “The duty of this court is to do right … the impact of this decision will extend beyond the parties of this petition.”

Odinga lost the vote to Kenyatta, 50 percent to 43 percent, with Kenyatta avoiding a runoff by just 8,100 votes. Odinga believes electoral authorities influenced the outcome in Kenyatta’s favor.

“I have no hesitation whatsoever in lawfully challenging the election outcome,” Odinga said. “These failures dwarf anything Kenyans have ever witnessed in any previous election.”

“We cannot begin what is supposed to be a new era under a new constitution in the same old ways,” he added.

Odinga, who has lost three times in bids for the presidency, said he will respect the decision of the Supreme Court, even if it rules against him.

Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto will go on trial for crimes against humanity in July at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Kenyatta is accused of inciting and leading a politico-religious group to violence in the aftermath of the 2007 election. The president-elect has promised to cooperate with international authorities.

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