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Odinga Rejects Kenya Election Outcome, Plans Legal Challenge

·4 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who narrowly lost last week’s presidential elections, rejected the official results, setting the stage for a protracted battle over control of East Africa’s biggest economy.

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Odinga, 77, secured 48.9% of the valid votes cast on Aug. 9 -- his fifth unsuccessful run at the presidency. Deputy President William Ruto was declared the winner with 50.5% support.

“We reject the presidential results,” Odinga told a televised briefing in the capital, Nairobi. The outcome announced on Monday by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati is “null and void and must be quashed by a court of law,” he said.

Under the constitution, a legal challenge to the validity of the results must be filed within seven days of their announcement, and the Supreme Court must make a ruling within 14 days of that. If it nullifies the vote, as it did in 2017, fresh elections must be held within 60 days.

The dispute and delay in the swearing-in of the new president poses a risk to political stability in Kenya, where previous controversial votes were marred by violence. While a number of Odinga’s supporters took to the streets of Nairobi late Monday and set tires alight, the situation was largely calm on Tuesday and there haven’t been any reports of clashes between the two rivals’ backers.

Click here to listen to a discussion on Kenya’s challenge.

The yield on Kenya’s 2032 Eurobonds dropped by 6 basis points to 12.05% by 8:12 p.m. local time on Tuesday after surging on Monday.

Odinga’s briefing followed shortly after four of the nation’s seven electoral commissioners held a separate media conference at which they rejected the outcome for a second time, citing a lack of transparency over the process.

When the four presidential contenders share of the vote was added up, it equated to 100.01% -- a “mathematical absurdity that defies logic,” said Juliana Cherera, the IEBC deputy chairperson. “That 0.01% translates approximately to 142,000 votes,” which would make a significant difference to the results, she said.

There were 14.2 million votes cast in the elections, however, meaning a 0.01% discrepancy only equates to about 1,420 votes, Bloomberg’s calculation based on the official tallies show. The IEBC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the four commissioner’s statement on Tuesday.

Ruto Declared Kenya President-Elect as Officials Dispute Outcome

The argument from the dissenting commissioners is “at face value pretty contradictory,” said Connor Vasey, an analyst at Eurasia Group. “They note that they have no alternative tally to what was announced but also say there are glaring mistakes,” he said, adding “their maths isn’t too sharp either.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Election Observer Group, which comprises 5,000 local monitors from civil rights and religious organizations, said the official count from the electoral commission was consistent with its parallel tally. The constitution gave Chebukati the right to declare the results, it said.

Ruto, 55, said the IEBC had “bent over backward to accommodate everybody,” the election results spoke for themselves and their validity was being questioned by those who didn’t want to accept that they had lost.

“The people of Kenya have spoken and we need to respect what they have said,” Ruto told reporters after he was declared the president-elect.

Parliamentary Vote

Ruto’s administration may battle to pass legislation if Odinga manages to cobble the most seats in the National Assembly. Odinga’s coalition had secured 162 against Ruto’s 159, with four contests still to be announced, according to the Daily Nation newspaper. Ruto’s alliance won the Senate, parliament’s other chamber, by a single seat.

The US Embassy in Nairobi and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office both urged parties to use the available legal channels to address any grievances.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa were among foreign leaders who congratulated Ruto on his victory.

(Updates with comment from dissenting commissioners in eighth paragraph)

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