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President Uhuru Kenyatta decries 'coup' as Kenya delays election

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Supreme Court staged a "coup" against the will of the people when it annulled his election win. The election board also delayed the new vote until October 26.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Thursday that the country's Supreme Court had staged a "coup" after it issued severe criticism of the president's August re-election on Wednesday.

"What happened is a judicial coup," Kenyatta said in a statement. "In a democratic and free nation, where citizens' rights are to be respected, we are now being told their will doesn't matter."

Kenyatta also accused the body's decision of lacking adequate scrutiny of the forms used to tally votes and warned it could unleash judicial chaos in the east African country.

Watch video 03:07

Kenya election 'neither transparent nor verifiable': DW's Kathryn Omwandho from Nairobi

Kenyatta was named the winner of the August 8 election, officially winning 54 percent of the vote. The Supreme Court in Nairobi nullified the result earlier this month, however, citing irregularities after opposition leader Raila Odinga filed a petition claiming the electoral commission's computers were hacked to skew the outcome.

The electoral commission announced Thursday it was delaying the new vote until October 26 after the French firm supplying the voting technology said it would not be ready in time. The Supreme Court had ruled that the re-run would have to take place within 60 days of the previous vote and set a new election date for October 17.

Allegations of hacking

The Nairobi court handed down a detailed judgment on Wednesday explaining why it nullified the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August election.

Reading out the statement, Judge Philomena Mwilu described "disturbing, if not startling, revelations" about the performance of the country's Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Mwilu said the electoral body had refused to comply with court orders to open its computer servers, saying this suggested that opposition claims of tampering could be true.

Kenya's Supreme Court judges

Kenya's Supreme Court has ordered a re-run of the August 8 election.

"Our order of scrutiny was a golden opportunity for the IEBC to place before the court evidence to debunk the petitioner's claim," she said. "Failure by the board to do as ordered must be held against it."

She added that the court was left with no choice but to determine that the election commission's "system was infiltrated and compromised and the data therein interfered with, or IEBC officials themselves interfered with the data, or it had bungled the transmission system and were unable to verify the data."

Mwilu also said it appeared the board did not have all the necessary tally forms, with thousands unaccounted for, at the time they announced official results. "The [board] cannot, therefore, be said to have verified the results," she noted.

"The Supreme Court's ruling can have a huge impact on the country's future," Jan Cernicky, head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Nairobi, told DW. "That largely depends on the elections that should take place on October 17, but we are really not sure if they will take place."

Cernicky said if the repeat election goes well, it might be a huge step to improve the rule of law and freedom of expression. He said the success of the October 17 election will send a strong signal to other African countries that "this is possible."

Supporters of Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga

Supporters of Kenya's opposition welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to nullify the results of the August 8 vote.

The IEBC blamed network failures for missing and delayed tally forms, with some polling stations unable to scan and send the documents on time. But the judges rejected this excuse, saying officials should have been better prepared. 

"Failure of the electronic system was a direct violation of the law," Mwilu said. "We find that the 2017 presidential election was neither transparent nor verifiable."

Protests outside court

Police used tear gas to disperse opposition and pro-government supporters who had gathered outside the court building while the judgment was read out on Wednesday.

Tensions in the Kenyan capital had been mounting in the leadup to the ruling, with the judiciary reportedly receiving death threats over the decision to void the vote. Chief Justice David Maraga on Tuesday accused police of failing to provide sufficient protection - a charge police denied.

"I don’t think the court will make the divisions that you see in Kenya any worse, Cernicky said. "There were tensions before, we will have tensions after the court’s ruling and also after the next election." 

Kenyatta had previously called the Supreme Court judges "crooks" and threatened to take unspecified action against the judiciary if he is re-elected next month.

amp, nm/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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