World-leading publications have penned hard-hitting editorials, calling for the postponement of the Thursday repeat presidential election and for Kenya’s main political parties to drop their hard line stances.
American business magazine Bloomberg on Tuesday became the latest in a series of editorials that have called for sober discussions ahead of the Thursday vote.
In an editorial titled Kenya’s No-win Election, Bloomberg asked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to seek a Supreme Court order for a postponement of 30 to 45 days in order to strengthen its systems and staff, and for the two parties to get back to peaceful campaigning.
“If Kenya goes ahead with its presidential vote this week, it will be making a historic mistake – one that threatens unrest and undermines a landmark court decision affirming the importance of transparent, free and fair elections,” Bloomberg said in the editorial.
The Thursday vote was a result of a historic September 1 ruling by the Supreme Court that found the August 8 poll, in which President Uhuru Kenyatta had been declared winner, to have been marred by illegalities and irregularities.
After the fresh date was announced, however, National Super Alliance (Nasa) candidate Raila Odinga, who had successfully petitioned President Kenyatta’s win, pulled out saying the IEBC had not implemented critical reforms to guarantee a credible poll.
He demanded a new election, 90 days after fresh nominations.
His supporters have since poured to the streets to demand the reforms, while Mr Odinga has vowed that there will be no election on the set date.
President Kenyatta, on the other hand, has insisted that the fresh polls must go on as planned, and therein lies the standoff.
London-based Financial Times, in an editorial on Monday, also called for postponement of the election, asking Kenyans to take a step back and not go back to the 2007/08 post-election violence that led to the death of more than 1,100 Kenyans and the displacement of more than 650,000.
“Rather than accepting that risk, Kenya’s Western allies should be defending the case for a fair procedure and pledging help. International organisations, possibly the UN, should consider offering to play a role in running the election,” the Financial Times said.
“Whatever happens will require a shake-up in personnel at the IEBC, which by all accounts has been undermined by political partisanship, intimidation and other skullduggery.”
After that, it said, there should be a robust and independent system to monitor the transmission and collation of results, which is trusted by both teams.
“The electoral commission should admit that it is not yet in a position to hold a new vote . . . national interest. The country will more easily endure a short period of continued uncertainty than it will the outcome of another flawed election,” it said.
The Washington Post, in an October 23 editorial, singled out President Kenyatta, terming as self-defeating his insistence for a fresh poll with no regard to reforms at the electoral commission.
“Polls as well as the August vote suggest that Mr Kenyatta would defeat Mr Odinga in a free and fair election. That makes the President’s insistence on going forward with the vote on Thursday, instead of delaying it and encouraging reforms by the election commission, self-defeating,” the Post said in the editorial.
“At best a nominally re-elected Mr Kenyatta will be left with a weakened domestic mandate and a lack of international credibility. Mrs Odinga, for his part, has never appeared willing to accept defeat, fair or otherwise, without a fight.”
Mr Odinga’s tactics, and the government’s harsh response, the Post said, risked a conflict that Kenya cannot afford.
And in an opinion in the New York Review of Books titled Who’s Cheating Kenyan Voters?, author Helen Epstein castigates the United States for what she argues was supporting the holding of the fresh polls, more for its financial interests than a credible poll.
“To dispel any suspicion that it is quietly intervening in Kenyan politics in a similar, if subtle, way now, the US must do all it can to ensure that Kenyans get the ‘free, fair, and credible election’ Washington says it wants,” Ms Epstein says in the October 23 piece.
President and his deputy strike reconciliatory tone as they lead Kenyans in peace prayers.