Low Voter Turnout, Violence Overshadow Kenyan Election Rerun

(Bloomberg) -- Less than half of registered voters cast ballots in a rerun of Kenya’s annulled presidential elections Thursday, in which an opposition boycott guarantees a win for incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta but raises concerns over its legitimacy.

The election was marred by violent clashes between opposition supporters and members of the security forces in the capital Nairobi and the west of the country that claimed the lives of at least four people.The Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission postponed the vote in four western counties that are strongholds of opposition leader Raila Odinga until Saturday.

About 5,320 of the 40,883 polling stations didn’t communicate with the national election center, indicating that no voting occurred there, Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the electoral commission told reporters in the capital, Nairobi, after the polls closed. He estimated voter turnout at 48 percent. Seventy-nine percent of the 19.6 million registered voters participated in the August election.

“We cannot keep extending that right to vote after Saturday,” Chebukati said. “We shall have to make a decision about what will be done.”

The Supreme Court last month invalidated Kenyatta’s victory in an Aug. 8 poll and ordered a repeat, ruling that the electoral commission failed to adhere to the constitution. Odinga withdrew from the rerun on Oct. 10 and urged a boycott, saying the commission hadn’t addressed the problems that marred the initial vote, including removing staff implicated in rigging and changing its election-management systems.

‘Failed Elections’

Two people died from gunshot wounds and at least 29 others were injured in the western city of Kisumu, according to county Governor Anyang Nyong’o. Two others were killed in Nairobi, Citizen TV reported. Police fought running battles with opposition supporters in both regions for most of the day, preventing voters from getting to some stations in slum areas including Mathare and Kibera in the capital.

“The 2017 elections have been a failure and have probably set back the process of democratic consolidation and the trend of increasing social cohesion,” Jared Jeffery, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics, said in an emailed note. “But this does not mean that Kenya is not moving towards being a more functional democracy.”

Odinga’s four-party alliance has campaigned against what it calls a “sham election.” The electoral commission chairman previously said he couldn’t guarantee a credible vote because of interference in the political process. On the eve of the vote, Odinga’s coalition transformed itself into a national resistance movement that he said would embark on a defiance campaign to ensure “fresh, free and fair presidential elections” are held within 90 days.

Uncertainty about the vote has unnerved investors in Kenya, a regional hub for companies including General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. The Nairobi Securities Exchange All Share Index has dropped 7.3 percent since the election outcome was declared void on Sept. 1, while the yield on the government’s international bonds due in 2024 has climbed 34 basis points to 6.36 percent. The shilling traded as low as 103.90 per dollar on Thursday, its weakest level since Aug. 10.

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