“There will be no surprises, just tell me when he gets to the conclusion.” I said to my colleague who was carefully listening to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the recent Kenyan presidential election.
“Maybe there is, I think the court ruling is actually scrapping the presidential election results!” he answered with great astonishment.
By this time, everyone in the office had crowded around the screen with the live news reporting at the Supreme Court of Kenya. Standing in disbelief, everyone was having the shock of their lives as the Chief Justice David Maraga declared President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory to be “invalid, null and void”. Such 360 degrees turn to the presidential election results came as a surprise to the nation, even the petitioned opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Almost a month ago on the 8 August, Kenya held its contentious 2017 election where the incumbent president Kenyatta was re-elected winning 54% to 45% over Odinga. The opposition leader Odinga alleged that the results had been tampered with by hackers and subsequently challenged the results in the Supreme Court. In a 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court found no misconduct on the part of the president, but determined that the election “was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and the election commission had committed irregularities”. As such, Kenyans will have a second presidential election within the next 60 days.
As the big news spread on the Friday mid-day, I could hear cheers and celebrations throughout the streets of Nairobi. Hundreds of Odinga supporters danced and sang in the streets. Whilst Kenyatta’s supporters were surprised by the decision, such court decision was nevertheless viewed by the majority to be a sign of the juridical independence and democracy maturity. This was the first time in the African democratization history that a ruling has ever been made by a court nullifying the election of an incumbent president. The public criticism of the election was perhaps never about Odinga losing, rather Kenya deserves a credible election and the winner should be worthy of the title of “democratically elected”.
The victory of African democracy, however, comes at a high cost. There-election will cost Kenya at least $1 billion to operationally run the election and for candidates to hold political campaigns. The economic growth has plummeted around election period, along with spurred inflation and investments being moved out of the country. A new election not only opens up the country to economic uncertainty but also the renewed possibility of violence. In last month’s election, at least 24 people were killed in the post-election violence. No doubt, the chances of post-election violence remain in this new election.
“Real democracy is only possible when people truly imbibe democratic principles and respect ethical values above everything else.” It is ultimately not the voting that is a democracy, but the counting.