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Sunday 22 September 2019

Candidate cleared to contest Kenya poll following main challenger's withdrawal

Challenger Raila Odinga has withdrawn from the poll (AP)
Challenger Raila Odinga has withdrawn from the poll (AP)

A minor opposition candidate has been cleared by a judge to run for president in this month's election in Kenya, bringing new uncertainty a day after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the new vote.

At the same time, politicians approved amendments to the country's electoral law that have been criticised by the opposition and Western diplomats.

The amendments require the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose ruling party sought the changes after the Supreme Court nullified Mr Kenyatta's election in August and ordered a new vote.

Elsewhere in Nairobi, police used tear gas to disperse thousands of opposition protesters who regrouped outside the election commission's offices and demanded reforms.

Wednesday's court ruling appeared to open the way for other presidential candidates in the August election to run again on October 26.

Justice John Mativo said he did not see any reason for Ekuru Aukot to be barred from participating in the repeat election.

Mr Aukot won about 27,000 votes of more than 15 million cast in the invalidated poll.

The Supreme Court last month rejected the August election in which Mr Kenyatta was declared the winner after Mr Odinga challenged the results, saying hackers infiltrated the electoral commission's computer system to manipulate the vote in Mr Kenyatta's favour.

Mr Odinga then surprised Kenyans on Tuesday by withdrawing from the fresh election, saying the electoral commission must be changed or the new vote risked having the same problems as the first one.

His withdrawal created confusion in East Africa's largest economy, with observers wondering how the new election might go forward.

The election commission said on Tuesday it was meeting with its legal team on the way forward.

Mr Kenyatta, who called the Supreme Court judges "crooks" after their ruling, has said he does not want changes to the election commission.

His Jubilee Party has instead has used its parliamentary majority to push for the changes in the electoral law.

The opposition says the changes to the law are meant to make the transmission of election results a manual process that would have fewer safeguards against fraud, and would make it more difficult for the court to annul an election.


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