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Kenya's annulled elections are a victory for democracy

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Andrea Schmidt
September 1, 2017

Kenya's Supreme Court has surprisingly declared the country's 2017 elections null and void. But shortcomings need to be cleared up before a rerun, says DW's Andrea Schmidt.

Odinga stands through the roof of a car surrounded by a cheering crowd
Kenya's Raila Odinga celebrates his court victoryImage: picture alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis

According to official results announced on August 11, Kenya's sitting president Uhuru Kenyatta was the clear winner of the 2017 elections with 54 percent of the votes. His main challenger Raila Odinga only received 44 percent.

But Odinga claimed the win was fraudulent. He petitioned the Supreme Court to void the results, arguing that the electronic system used to transmit results from polling stations was hacked. 

The Supreme court has now agreed with him, nullifying the August 8 elections and ordering a rerun within 60 days. 

Hardly anyone reckoned with this decision made under Chief Justice David Marago, who on Monday ordered the Electoral Commission to give the opposition access to servers and other electronic equipment. 

The decision shows that Kenya's Supreme Court takes its work seriously. It also demonstrates its independence and its lack of fear of repercussions from the state.  

Andrea Schmidt, head of DW's Kiswahili service
Andrea Schmidt heads DW's Kiswahili service


There have already been positive reactions from neighboring countries, where elections have also been clouded by allegations of fraud. Kenya's court decision can now give them hope. 

Often, office bearers do everything they can to stay in power. Kenyatta has chosen a different route and said he respects the court's judgment. But this isn't enough. 

New elections can't take place under the same Electoral Commission, which has lost legitimacy in the eyes of most Kenyans. Some are already calling for the United Nations to oversee the rerun polls. I think this goes too far. 

But the government, together with the opposition, needs to put together a new Electoral Commission.

In addition, the irregularities which marred the August 2017 elections need to be uncovered and addressed. 

International election observers said the elections were mostly free and fair, a finding that should make us sit up and think. 

Importantly, supporters of Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party need to accept the court's results, just as Kenyatta has done. 

Kenyans have earned a fair election result.

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