Posts Tagged ‘presidential election’

Mexico leftist opens up 22-point lead in presidency race

April 19, 2018

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Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) greets supporters during his campaign rally in Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico, April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Henry RomeroREUTERS


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has widened his lead in the race to win the July 1 presidential election, opening up a gap of 22 percentage points, a poll by newspaper Reforma showed on Wednesday.

The April 12-15 voter poll showed Lopez Obrador winning 48 percent, a jump of six points from a February survey by Reforma. His nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who heads a right-left coalition, dropped by six points to 26 percent.

Running third was Jose Antonio Meade, candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose backing remained steady at 18 percent, the poll showed.

The figures for the three stripped out the 19 percent of respondents who expressed no preference. The poll surveyed 1,200 voters and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

A separate survey by polling firm Mitofsky published late on Wednesday also showed Lopez Obrador pulling further ahead.

In that poll, Lopez Obrador garnered 31.9 percent support, up from 29.5 percent in a Mitofsky survey last month. Anaya trailed in second with 20.8 percent and Meade polled at 16.9 percent.

Lopez Obrador, a 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, has capitalized on widespread disenchantment with the PRI over political corruption, rising levels of violence and sluggish economic growth to consolidate his lead in recent weeks.

He says Mexico should reduce its economic dependence on foreign powers, and has vowed to put U.S. President Donald Trump “in his place” if he wins.

Trump’s barbs against Mexican immigrants and complaints that Mexico has taken advantage of the United States over trade have made him very unpopular south of the border, and a Lopez Obrador presidency could usher in a testier bilateral relationship.

Support for Anaya, a former leader of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), has slipped since he came under attack from rivals over allegations of financial impropriety in a property deal in his home state of Queretaro.

Anaya, 39, has denied any wrongdoing.

Runner-up in the last two presidential contests, Lopez Obrador has promised an “austere” budget, to be achieved by battling corruption and cutting government waste.

He has threatened to undo the centerpiece of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s economic agenda, the opening of the oil and gas industry to private investment. However, several top advisers say Lopez Obrador is unlikely to make major changes.

Lopez Obrador has raised doubts over the future of Mexico City’s $13 billion new airport, now well under construction. Arguing it is too expensive and tainted by corruption, he is threatening to scrap the hub for a cheaper alternative. That has put him at loggerheads with Mexico’s richest man Carlos Slim, who has a major stake in the project.

The Reforma survey also showed Lopez Obrador comfortably beating his two main rivals in direct head-to-head contests. Facing Anaya, he wins by a margin of 51 percent to 31 percent, and against the 49-year-old Meade, by 57 percent to 22 percent.

Lopez Obrador’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is poised to become the largest in Congress, four years after it was formally registered, the Reforma poll showed.

No party has held an outright majority since 1997 and it was not clear MORENA would do so either under the mix of direct election and proportional representation Mexico uses.

MORENA was projected to win 37 percent of support in voting for the lower house of Congress, the PAN 21 percent and the PRI 17 percent, the Reforma survey showed.

The leftist Labor Party (PT), which is allied to MORENA, had 5 percent of support. Another MORENA ally, the socially conservative Social Encounter Party, polled 1 percent, below the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Congress.

(Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler)


Egyptians who took part in Arab Spring say voting useless — “I won’t put the effort and vote in an election that is already predetermined.”

March 20, 2018


© AFP | A picture taken on March 7, 2018 shows posters supporting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hanging in a street in the downtown Cairo district of El-Gamaleya, where he was born

CAIRO (AFP) – As banners supporting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s bid for a second term fill Cairo’s streets, some who participated in the 2011 democratic uprising say they will boycott this month’s “predetermined” elections.”It’s been a downwards slippery slope since the last presidential elections (in 2014): nothing is improving,” said Sami, who took part in the January 2011 uprising which toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi, as defence minister, led the July 2013 ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule.

Now, Sisi is seeking another term in the March 26-28 elections, running against Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a candidate who had previously expressed support for the incumbent.

Other presidential hopefuls were arrested or withdrew.

“It’s a nominal participation. They couldn’t have just one person running unopposed, so they brought someone just as a show so they can say there is competition,” said Sarah.

Like Sami and everyone else interviewed in this story, she asked to be identified by a pseudonym.

“I won’t put the effort and vote in an election that is already predetermined,” she said.

– 2011 hopes dashed –

The situation is a far cry from Sarah’s high hopes in 2011, when she joined protests “excited to have free and fair elections, and to vote in competitive elections where my voice would make a difference.”

Over 18 days, mostly young Egyptians overcame thousands of security forces, capturing Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.

There, they camped day and night until Mubarak, who had been in power for nearly 30 years, left office. The military then took charge of the country.

Soon after, major Mubarak-era officials were arrested and courts began examining cases of police brutality.

“It was an incredible moment of hope; the sky was the limit,” said Sami.

After the military’s year in power, Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood group, became Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president in 2012.

A year later, Egyptians concerned at the rise of political Islam within the government supported Morsi’s ouster, with many hoping further democratic elections would follow.

“But what happened next, with the nomination of another person from the military, it was very clear that we went back to the same loop,” said Sami.

When he joined the 2011 protests, he was hoping for “freedom and liberty”.

But during the years of turmoil that followed, many gave up these demands in favour of economic stability and security. People “were upset, but opted for calmness,” he said.

“Now, the outcome is zero. Economically, everyone is pressured, no matter your income level, all your savings and income were slashed in half.”

With its foreign exchange reserves down since the uprising, Egypt floated the pound in 2016, causing the currency to lose more than half its value against the dollar.

– ‘Worse than before’ –

Meanwhile, “socially you’re frustrated: you feel you’re unable to move or speak easily, so much paranoia, too much security hysteria, to the point the country is back to being run by a single entity,” said Sami.

Critics say things have deteriorated since Mubarak’s time.

“There is no doubt that things are now much worse than before, because now they know that they cannot take us lightly,” said Safeya.

“That’s why they are arresting, threatening, imprisoning, sentencing to death, because they are afraid we will rise up again.”

Domestic and international rights groups accuse the authorities of human rights violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.

Egypt denies the accusations and says abuses are rare cases and their perpetrators are tried.

For Sami, the forthcoming election has little meaning.

“I won’t even bother to think about it,” he said. “I just want the day to pass calmly.”

Looking back at the 2011 uprising, Sarah said that “if I think rationally, I would say ‘I wish it had not happened’.”

“But I won’t be able to say I wish it had not happened, because it was best thing that happened in Egypt during my time,” she added.

She said she is now focusing on her work and trying to find a way to get out of Egypt.

“Of course I want to leave. I am looking everywhere else for work, even in countries I never previously thought I would even consider,” she said. “I have completely lost hope here.”

Marco Rubio: ‘Vladimir Putin chose to interfere in US elections’

December 14, 2017

US Senator Marco Rubio, who ran against President Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, tells DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova that talk of US President Donald Trump’s impeachment over alleged Russian ties is premature.

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Watch video18:14

DW talks to US Senator Marco Rubio

DW:US President Donald Trump is making headlines across the world because of his Russia connections [the Robert Mueller-led investigation into alleged US collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election — the ed.]. What might be the final political consequences for him?

Marco RubioWell, one thing about the US, compared to Vladimir Putin’s government, is that we have a system of checks and balances and a system of rule of law. Right now there are suspicions and allegations that have been made that are being investigated by professional investigators who will make decisions based on the facts. Ultimately, we will let it play itself out and go wherever the truth takes us, that’s the way our system works.

And the people that are accused have a right to defend themselves and prove their innocence. And the government has a burden to prove that. We are not at that stage yet. But what is abundantly clear is that Vladimir Putin chose to interfere in the US elections — in my opinion, not so much to favor one candidate over another, but to sow instability. In many ways he blames the United States for the protests against corruption and against him that took place in 2009, 2010, or 2011. He thinks that the United States was behind it. In many ways, this was a part of getting revenge for that. And the other part of it is that he wanted to destabilize the US, to be able to go back and say to his own people and to the world that America is in no position to lecture anyone about democracy, as their own democracy is flawed. I don’t necessarily disagree that we’re not perfect. The difference is that our imperfections are debated openly in a free society and not presented through a state-controlled media, loyal to one person and one regime.

But I’m talking about this particular investigation. If they prove that Trump had connections to Russia, what would the consequences be for him and his political career? How big is the risk of impeachment, for example?

Well, we’re way ahead of ourselves when talking about impeachment. Right now we have an ongoing investigation, and it may lead to nothing. We’ve already seen a couple of indictments, but it may not ultimately prove that the president did something wrong. We need to wait for that. I don’t want to prejudge that — it would be unfair and prejudicial to do so. But ultimately, I am confident that those doing the investigation are serious and professional people. The truth is going to be out there for courts to look at — in the case of the individuals that have been indicted or may be indicted, and for the voters to look at — in the case of anybody else who is in elected office.

In your estimation, how big is the real impact of Russia’s interference in the US presidential election?

Trump and Putin talking to each otherDid you hear the one about me and the Democrats?

I don’t think it impacted the outcome. But we most certainly need to be aware that foreign governments tried to exploit legitimate divisions in American society for purposes of creating chaos. I think that Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal was not the election of one candidate versus another, although he may have personally preferred one candidate. But his ultimate goal was to ensure that whoever was elected the next US president, they did so with their credibility damaged. I also think that he wanted to exploit the already existing divisions in American society for the purpose of forcing us to go through what we’re going through right now — investigations, divisive debates, talk about impeachment, and the like.

It’s destabilizing. This is a pattern that has repeated itself not simply in the US elections — we saw an attempt to do it in France, Germany, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and even potentially in Mexico this year. This is a sort of hybrid warfare type concept that he has adopted, and it is in line with his training as a KGB officer and the sort of propaganda efforts that existed during the Cold War, without the internet and without Twitter and Facebook.


Pinera poised for presidential comeback in Chile

November 19, 2017


© AFP / by Paulina ABRAMOVICH | Chile’s Sebastian Pinera delivers a speech ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, in which he is expected to garner the most votes — but perhaps not enough to win without a run-off

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Sebastian Pinera, one of Chile’s richest men, looks likely to prevail in the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, confirming his frontrunner status to succeed Socialist leader Michelle Bachelet.If the 67-year-old billionaire does ultimately become head of state, it would be his second chance to run Latin America’s fifth-biggest economy — confirming a tag team for power that he and Bachelet, 66, have been performing for the past decade.

Chile’s constitution does not permit consecutive terms for its president. But re-election after a skipped term is permissible, and that quite possibly is what is in store after this weekend, thus swinging the pendulum of Chile’s national politics from left back to right again.

Voter intention surveys credit the Harvard-educated Pinera, who was president from 2010-2014, with a comfortable lead in the race — but not enough to win the presidency outright on Sunday.

“It’s not very likely” he will get the 50 percent or more of ballots needed to avoid a run-off, said political analyst Mauricio Morales of Talca University.

In that case, a second-round showdown would be held between the top two candidates on December 17. The winner takes over in March next year.

– Voter apathy –

Apart from Pinera, Sunday’s field counts seven candidates.

His closest rival is Alejandro Guillier, a former state TV anchor turned senator who presents himself as an independent but who has the backing of Bachelet’s Socialists.

Guillier is credited with 25 percent of voter support, against 44 percent for Pinera.

With the outcome weighted heavily in Pinera’s favor, voter apathy could be an issue.

Compulsory voting was dropped in 2012, and since then a growing proportion of the 14-million-strong electorate has decided to stay away from polling stations.

“People don’t want to vote because, really, nobody believes there will be any significant change anywhere. Also, they see who will be president as a foregone conclusion,” said Catalina Gascone, a 19-year-old student.

Analysts predict abstention could be as high as 40 percent on Sunday, and that Pinera has more motivated voters who will turn out.

Chileans living abroad have already begun casting their ballots, beginning with those living in New Zealand. Some 40,000 registered to take part in the election.

– No majority? –

Pinera’s first presidential victory in 2009 elections signified a break from the center-left politics that had reigned in Chile since democracy was restored with the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1990.

But a comeback by him was not seen as a rejection of the overall economic and social model erected in the Bachelet years, during which Chile posted 1.8 percent in annual growth and saw tax and labor reforms, an introduction of free education, and the right to abortion.

“Chileans don’t want to tear down the model, just fix its structure,” Morales said.

Pinera has promised modifications to Bachelet’s reforms, as well as vowing to have Chile join the club of developed nations within the next eight years.

His effectiveness, though, could be hobbled by a shortfall in legislative support.

“He is not going to have a majority in Congress,” another analyst, Marta Lagos, founder of Latinobarometro and MORI Chile, predicted.

Sunday’s balloting also includes legislative elections for many of the congressional seats. Electoral forecasts suggest the right will increase its representation, but likely will not have the majority in either chamber.


Kenya waits for an end to presidential re-run

October 30, 2017


© AFP / by Tristan MCCONNELL | Praying for an end to Kenya’s election crisis? Worshippers gather at the Gatina church in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum which was visited by embattled opposition leader Raila Odinga

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya’s election board is expected Monday to decide whether to reschedule a vote in flashpoint opposition areas, where a boycott sparked violent protests, or to push ahead with declaring victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

With the counting almost done after Thursday’s presidential re-run, the results remained on hold as officials mulled what to do about the 25 constituencies in four western counties where voting was blocked.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who called for an election boycott, managed to prevent hundreds of polling stations from opening, prompting violent clashes with police which continued for several days, leaving nine dead and scores injured.

At least 49 people have died since the first presidential election of August 8, which was later overturned, prompting Kenya’s worst political crisis in a decade.

The months-long electoral dispute and increasingly divisive political rhetoric has polarised the nation and sparked international concern about the future of east Africa’s most stable democracy.

Following Odinga’s boycott, Kenyatta is guaranteed a crushing win.

Turnout figures given by election chief Wafula Chebukati late Sunday suggested the opposition boycott had held with a turnout of 7.4 million people, equivalent to just 43 percent of voters in 251 of the 266 constituencies where the election took place.

– Re-run re-run? –

Chebukati said he was “satisfied” with the counting process but made no comment on what would happen in the protest-hit western areas.

Plans to restage the vote in the western regions on Saturday were quickly called off after a second day of protests, over fears for the safety of polling staff.

On Sunday, Odinga, who says Thursday’s poll would have been neither free nor fair, continued to demand a new election within 90 days, vowing to stage a campaign of “civil disobedience”.

But William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy, was intransigent.

“There will be no election in 90 days, there will be no discussion on matters to do with elections,” he told Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Thursday’s presidential re-run was ordered by Kenya’s Supreme Court after it overturned Kenyatta’s August victory over “irregularities” in the transmission of votes.

That ruling stipulated that the vote must be completed by October 31.

While the Supreme Court ruling was hailed as a chance to deepen democracy, the acrimonious bickering between Odinga and Kenyatta — whose fathers were rivals before them — has sharply divided a country where politics is already polarised along tribal lines.

The current political crisis is the worst since a 2007 vote sparked months of politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 people dead.

While the dynamics of 2017’s political crisis are very different, the memory of the bloodshed a decade ago is never far away.

by Tristan MCCONNELL

Legitimacy of Kenyan Re-Run Election Not Clear — Kenya faces continuing uncertainty

October 27, 2017

BBC News

  • 26 October 2017
flames shooting out of a tyre as a crowd looks on
Protesters in Kisumu, western Kenya, barricaded roads and burned debris and tyres during the election. AFP Photo

The re-run of Kenya’s presidential election has taken place, but early signs are the overall turnout has been far lower than the first poll which was annulled by the Supreme Court.

The legitimacy of this election was being questioned even before the voting began, but if the 46% of the country who voted for the opposition last time have failed to turn up, the whole process will be further undermined.

Kisumu, like other parts of western Kenya, is an opposition stronghold and very few – if any – votes have been cast here.

The returning officer at Kisumu Central constituency tallying centre cut a lonely figure.

He and just two other Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials turned up for work – out of the 400 who should have been running the poll here.

The ballot boxes hadn’t arrived by 07:00, but were then dropped off by a Prisons Service coach.

A nurse explains how medics tried to save a man shot by police in Kisumu

Although the three IEBC staff went through the motions by placing the voting kits into each ballot box, there was nobody to take them to the polling stations or to oversee the election.

And even if there had been, they probably wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the various buildings in town set aside for voting.

Intimidation was the cause.

Commercial truck drivers didn’t want to risk carrying ballot boxes or voting slips, as gangs of youths were out, threatening anyone associated with trying to make the vote happen.

The main roads in Kisumu were blocked by lines of rocks and burning tyres every 150m (164yds), most of them manned by angry young men with sticks.

They shouted anti-Kenyatta slogans and complained at the way the police were firing live bullets and teargas to disperse the protests.

Throughout the day they played a cat-and-mouse game with the security forces: rocks and slingshots versus teargas and in some cases live ammunition – usually fired overhead.

But there were a handful of gunshot injuries and at least one person was killed.

George Odhiambo, 19, was brought into hospital with a serious bullet wound in his upper leg and died after losing too much blood.

John Muyekho, officer in charge of Kisumu Central constituency, on his mobile phone at the constituency tallying centre at Lions High school 26/10/2017
The returning officer in Kisumu Central, John Ngutai Muyekho, said he had been struggling to distribute voting materials. AFP

When Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled the August presidential election, the decision was lauded as a triumph of judicial independence and African democracy in action.

Both were shattered in the lead-up to the vote.

Riddled with bullets

The courts were kept busy trying to cope with claims and counter-claims, but two key things will haunt this second ballot and provide ammunition for claims of illegitimacy.

The first was the hail of gunfire that seriously injured the deputy chief justice’s bodyguard two nights before the ballot.

The second was that Supreme Court judges were simply unwilling to turn up to work.

It’s perhaps not surprising Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu did not attend court the morning after her car was riddled with bullets.

Luckily she was not in the vehicle at the time.

It was clearly interpreted as a serious threat to her life – a grotesque and blatant attempt to intimidate the country’s second most senior judge.

And it worked.

Five of seven of Kenya Supreme Court judges (L-R) Njoki Ndungu, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Chief Justice David Maraga, Jackton Ojwang and Isaac Lenaola 20/09/2017
The Supreme Court is Kenya’s highest – Lady Justice Mwilu is second left, Chief Justice David Maraga centre – library picture – EPA

The Chief Justice, David Maraga, apologised to all parties who had gathered for an urgent petition asking the court to stop the re-run of the presidential vote the day before the ballot.

They were unable to hear the case, he said, because they didn’t have a quorum.

Five of the court’s seven judges must be present for decisions to be valid, but only two made it into work that day.

Lady Justice Mwilu was not in a position to come to court “following the events of last night which are in the public domain,” the chief justice said.

Justice Mohammed Ibrahim had been ill for some time and was out of the country.

Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u was “unable to get a flight back to Nairobi in time” and Justices Ojwang and Wanjala “are not able to come to court,” he said, without any further explanation.

‘Difficult to guarantee’

The highest court in the land – with an opportunity to rule on the contradictions of electoral law, the constitution and its various interpretations – stepped back and allowed the election to go ahead without further discussion.

The case has been suspended – it will no doubt be revisited, but only after it’s too late.

After faith in the IEBC was shattered by its failings on the first attempt, it seems unlikely a large percentage of the population will accept the re-run result.

Just last week the chairman of the IEBC, Wafula Chebukati said: “It is difficult to guarantee a free, fair and credible election.”

But he nevertheless announced the ballot would go ahead, “based on the assurances given to the commission” on security and on the progress made in ensuring the vote was free and fair.

And in many parts of the country it did go ahead – ruling party strongholds no doubt recorded plenty of votes, but overall it appears the numbers are down.

The lower the turnout, the louder the voices of dissent will be.

And with opposition strongholds unwilling to vote and seemingly prepared to prevent others from doing so, Kenya faces continuing uncertainty.



Kenya counts votes, and the cost of a violence-hit election

October 27, 2017


© AFP / by Fran BLANDY | Kenya’s second presidential election in three months plunged into chaos as supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga attempted to block voting, clashing with police who fired tear gas, water cannon and live bullets

NAIROBI (AFP) – As polling officials tallied votes, Kenyans counted the cost Friday of a deeply-divisive election marred by an opposition boycott and protests that left at least four dead and scores wounded.

The country’s second presidential election in three months descended into chaos on Thursday as supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga attempted to block voting, clashing with police who fired tear gas, water cannon and live bullets.

The vote came after a two-month political drama that began when the Supreme Court overturned the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 8 elections due to “irregularities”.

Although the ruling was initially hailed as a chance to deepen democracy in one of east Africa’s most stable nations, its impact quickly soured, unleashing weeks of angry protests, acrimonious political rhetoric and intimidation of election officials.

And Odinga’s boycott of the re-run, on grounds the election commission had failed to make the necessary changes to ensure a free and fair vote, has assured Kenyatta a landslide victory.

But as votes continued to be tallied on Friday difficult questions remained over the credibility of an election boycotted by a large part of the 19 million registered voters.

Estimated figures compiled by the election board after polling shut pointed to a turnout of 48 percent, said election chief Wafula Chebukati.

Kenya’s leading Daily Nation newspaper said the low turnout would mean “a serious question of legitimacy for the winner.”

It would be a huge fall from the nearly 80 percent rate in the August poll and proof the opposition boycott had held. That first disputed election was won by Kenyatta but overturned in an unprecedented court ruling that has sparked weeks of protest and acrimonious debate.

While the August election saw long queues of voters and ballots being cast long after closing time in some places, Thursday’s vote was a different story with many polling stations empty or welcoming only a trickle of people.

On Friday morning Chebukati said the central tally centre in Nairobi had received results sheets from 90 percent of polling stations nationwide.

However, he had been forced to postpone the election until Saturday in four protest-hit counties in the country’s west where Odinga enjoys overwhelming support.

The move, he said, was due to “security-related” challenges.

– ‘They’re shooting at us!’ –

But the governor of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold in western Kenya where violence raged on Thursday, rejected the move, saying people would not vote while they were “mourning”.

He said he had invited Odinga and top leaders of his National Super Alliance coalition (NASA) to visit the city on Friday.

At least four people were shot dead and around 50 others wounded, most of them by live bullets, during Thursday vote, according to an AFP tally of figures from officials and medics.

One of the dead was a 19 year-old who died from blood loss after being shot in the thigh during clashes in Kisumu, police and hospital sources said.

A second person died from a gunshot wound to the leg in Kisumu, police said, after a polling centre was “stormed” by a mob.

Police said another man was shot dead in Homa Bay, also in the west, “where a large mob attacked a small police facility” prompting officers to open fire “to protect themselves”.

And a fourth man was shot dead in Nairobi’s Mathare slum, another hotspot in the capital where police fired water cannon and teargas to disperse demonstrators.

The confirmed casualties raised to 44 the tally of people killed in election-related violence since the August poll.

The crisis is the worst since a 2007 election sparked politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 dead.

In its post-election editorial the Daily Nation warned Kenya is now “more fractured and unstable than ever before” but added, “Ours is a political problem that requires a political solution.”

“There is a need to forge inclusivity.”

by Fran BLANDY

Kenyan police fire tear gas at pro-opposition youths in Kisumu on election day

October 26, 2017


KISUMU, Kenya (Reuters) – Kenyan police fired tear gas on Thursday to disperse groups of stone-throwing young men in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold where polling stations have failed to open for the re-run of a presidential election, a Reuters witness said.

Polling stations open in Kenya despite calls to boycott vote — only a trickle of voters in many areas

October 26, 2017



© Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP | A staff calls on her mobile phone as she arranges official election ballots at Lions High School polling station in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold in western Kenya, on October 25, 2017

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-10-26

Kenyans began voting Thursday in a repeat election that has polarised the nation and is likely to be fiercely disputed in the absence of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is boycotting the vote.

In stark contrast to the first edition of the election, which was annulled last month by the Supreme Court, many polling stations in the capital and Odinga’s strongholds saw only a trickle of voters.

“It is my duty to vote. Last time the queue was all around the block and I waited six hours to vote, this time the people are few,” said taxi driver David Njeru, 26, as he waited to cast his ballot in Nairobi’s Mathare slum.

Under a steady drizzle, only 50 people stood on the boggy grass outside the Redeemed Gospel Church polling station, where more than 8,000 are registered to vote.

In the Kibera slum, police fired teargas at opposition supporters who tried to set up barricades in front of a polling station, prompting them to lob rocks at the officers. Similar scenes were seen in the western towns of Migori, Siaya and Homa Bay.

The election is the chaotic climax of a political drama that began when the Supreme Court overturned the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 elections.

>> Read more: Kenya election chief casts doubt on ‘free, fair’ poll

It cited “irregularities” and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Kenyatta, who turns 56 on Thursday, is almost assured victory after veteran opposition leader Odinga withdrew citing fears the poll would be marred by the same flaws which saw the August vote overturned.

The boycott, in an acrimonious political environment marked by violence and intimidation, is likely to tarnish the credibility of Kenyatta’s victory and open the vote up for further legal battles.

The dispute has plunged east Africa’s richest economy into its worst political crisis since a 2007 election sparked politically driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 dead.

Ghost poll in Kisumu

In Odinga’s western stronghold of Kisumu, several polling stations remained closed, with one visited by an AFP correspondent chained and locked.

Ballot boxes and electronic kits to identify voters and transmit results had not arrived in polling stations, with some officials facing attacks from opposition supporters while trying to deliver voting material.

“So far, we have not deployed any material, and we have not deployed election officials. The reason is security,” said returning officer John Ngutai.

“We hope to be able to deploy later in the day. We hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The worst would be no election officials.”

Despite the call for a boycott, one Odinga supporter Joshua Nyamori, 42, hoped to vote at the Kenyatta Sports Ground, but found no polling material or officials.

“Even if 500,000 do not want to vote, polling stations should be open, even for the 10 people who want to vote,” he said.

“I am concerned because not all people are staying home by choice, some people are afraid of being attacked,” he said.

In his view, the decision of the opposition coalition National Super Alliance (NASA) not to take part in the vote was a “political mistake”.

With eight candidates in the running, the vote was essentially a showdown between Kenyatta and Odinga, whose families have been locked in political rivalry for more than half a century.

However Odinga gave a final address to supporters on the eve of the ballot, urging them to “stay at home” in a move likely to ease concerns over election day violence.

Opposition protests have resulted in at least 40 deaths, mostly at the hands of police and in poor opposition strongholds, according to rights groups.

The 72-year-old Odinga, who has lost three previous elections claiming fraud in two of them, said his coalition would transform into “a resistance movement”.

NASA will “embark on a national campaign of defiance of illegitimate governmental authority and non-cooperation with all its organs,” he declared.

Credibility ‘undermined’

The decision to cancel the August poll over irregularities in the electronic transmission of votes was initially hailed as an opportunity to deepen democracy in a country plagued by disputed elections.

But the re-run has been dogged by chaos and acrimony, prompting top diplomats to blast Odinga and Kenyatta for fuelling division instead of seeking a path to a free and fair election in the country of 48 million people.

A myriad of legal battles failed to block the vote from going forward, with a final petition in front of the Supreme Court failing on the eve of the election due to lack of a quorum as only two of seven judges showed up.

The European Union observer mission, which like other foreign teams has limited its work due to security fears, said the poll’s credibility had been “undermined” by the inability of the court to reach a quorum.

A statement signed by 15 foreign envoys from the United States, United Kingdom and several European countries, expressed disappointment that Kenya had not “come together to hold a better election”.

“We are deeply disappointed by the continuing efforts of both parties to interfere with and undermine the independent operation of the electoral commission, the judiciary, and other essential institutions,” said the statement.

The polls will close at 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Burning barricades mark start of Kenya election re-run — “No security to deliver ballot boxes” — “People fail to show up for work”

October 26, 2017
 An opposition supporter gestures in front of a burned barricade in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

KISUMU, Kenya (Reuters) – Polling stations in Kenyan opposition strongholds were shuttered on Thursday and youths burnt street barricades, heeding an election boycott set to hand victory to President Uhuru Kenyatta, but with a mandate compromised by low turnout and procedural flaws.

 Image result for kenya election, October 25, 2017, photos
 Kenyan women stage a multi-faith demonstration calling for peace marches outside Supreme Court in Kenya

Those shortcomings in Kenya’s election re-run, already acknowledged by judges and the election commission, are likely to trigger legal challenges and could spark violence in a country riven by deep ethnic divisions.

The fresh election follows an August vote whose result, a Kenyatta victory, was annulled by the Supreme Court due to procedural irregularities. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will not take part in the re-run election.

In the western town of Migori, several hundred young men milled around on a main road littered with rubble and burning barricades, according to footage on the domestic NTV channel.

In Kisumu, another western city and the epicenter of support for opposition leader Odinga, polling stations that were meant to open at dawn stayed firmly shut and election officials were nowhere to be found.

The previous evening, one nervous voting officer described his work in the city, the center of major ethnic violence after a disputed election in 2007, as a “suicide mission”.

Kisumu Central returning officer John Ngutai said only three of his 400 staff had shown up for work and there was no security to deliver ballot boxes.

“We don’t have any options,” he told Reuters, as he and two presiding officers sorted thousands of ballot papers into piles, work that should have been completed the previous day.

Kisumu businessman Joshua Nyamori, 42, was one of the few voters brave enough to defy an Odinga call for a stay-away but could find nowhere to cast his ballot in the city of a million on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“I know it’s not a popular move,” he said. “Residents fear reprisal from political gangs organized by politicians. This is wrong.”

Image result for kenya election, October 25, 2017, photos

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga speaks to gathered supporters and media at a rally in Uhuru


A policeman holds up a gun in Kibera slum during clashes with opposition supporters in Nairobi, Kenya October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans are braced for trouble although Odinga backed off previous calls for protests and urged his supporters to stay out of the way of police.

“We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home,” Odinga said.

Odinga’s National Super Alliance coalition, which has been accused of harassing polling staff in the run-up to the vote, is likely to present a lack of open polling stations as proof the re-run, organized in less than 60 days, is bogus.

Slideshow (18 Images)

The head of the election commission said last week he could not guarantee a free and fair vote, citing interference from politicians and threats of violence against his colleagues. One election commissioner has quit and fled the country.

Kenyatta, the U.S.-educated son of Kenya’s founding father, has made clear he sees Thursday’s vote as legitimate. In central Nairobi, where support for the two protagonists is more mixed, turnout was significantly down on the August election.

Anti-riot police were patrolling in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums. Nearly 50 people have been killed by security forces since the August vote.

The election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, for whom Nairobi is a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.

In a statement, the U.S. embassy called for calm from all sides but acknowledged that the vote had been damaging to regional stability.

“Following this election, there must be immediate, sustained, open and transparent dialogue involving all Kenyans to resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated,” it said.

Speaking on the eve of the vote, Kenyatta assured his countrymen and Kenya’s allies that order would be restored.

“I tell all our international partners that we will get through this,” he said. “We cannot remain in a perpetual state of politicking.”

Additional reporting by Maggie Fick, David Lewis and John Ndiso in Nairobi and Baz Ratner in Kisumu; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Andrew Roche and Michael perry