Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld Ruto’s narrow presidential victory

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s Supreme Court has unanimously rejected challenges to official presidential election results and upheld Deputy President William Ruto’s narrow victory in East Africa’s most stable democracy.

Ruto is expected to be sworn in on September 13.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga had alleged irregularities in the otherwise peaceful August 9 election that was marred by last-minute drama when the electoral commission split and traded accusations of misconduct.

The court found little or no evidence for the various claims and called some “nothing more than hot air”. He also expressed confusion as to why the four commissioners were involved until the last minutes in a vote-counting process they criticized as opaque.

The commission “needs far-reaching reform,” the court acknowledged, “but shall we invalidate an election based on a last-minute rift in the boardroom?”

The Supreme Court shocked Kenyans in the previous election in 2017 by overturning the results of a presidential election, a first in Africa, and ordered a new vote after Odinga appealed. He then boycotted these new elections.

This time, Odinga was backed by former rival and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in the latest example of shifting political alliances.

Odinga’s team had challenged the technology used by the electoral commission and alleged that the results of the vote had been tampered with and argued that the chairman of the electoral commission had essentially acted alone to declare the winner.

Odinga’s team contested the election, which is seen as the country’s most transparent, with results from tens of thousands of polling stations posted online within hours of voting for Kenyans to watch the count for themselves. Such reforms were partly the result of Odinga’s earlier election challenge.

Now Kenyans are waiting to see if anger over the election will spill over into the streets in a country with a history of sometimes deadly political violence. The election had one of the lowest turnout rates in the history of the country’s multi-party democracy, below 65%.

Mr Odinga, 77, who has been president for a quarter of a century, said he respected the court’s opinion but found it “unbelievable” that it rejected all allegations and sometimes used “unreasonably exaggerated language”. He said he would announce his plans later for the “fight for transparency, accountability and democracy.”

The immediate reaction on the streets of Nairobi appeared calm.

“It’s very painful. We accept the court’s decision and congratulate William Ruto. We are just asking him to be the president of all the people,” said John Okoth, a resident of the capital. “For Raila, it’s time to rest after five defeats.”

Ruto, 55, who had a bitter rift with Kenyatta after making peace with Odinga to calm the 2017 election crisis, had appealed to Kenyans by portraying himself as a “halist” from humble beginnings against her “dynasties”. Kenyatta. and Odinga, whose fathers were Kenya’s first president and vice president.

Ruto now faces the challenge of finding the money to back his campaign promises to the poor, as Kenya’s debt levels are now almost 70% of its GDP.

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AP reporter Brian Inganga in Nairobi, Kenya contributed.

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