Kenyan lawmakers scuffle amid fears of election-rigging

2016-12-23 19:00
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Nairobi - Kenyan legislators came to blows on Thursday as opposition members tried to block an emergency session that passed a bill to allow manual counting of election results, calling it a back door to manipulating next year's presidential vote.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for mass protests from January 4, saying, "No transparency, no elections".

Parliament's deputy minority leader, Jakoyo Midiwo, said they are challenging the bill's legality. "They are trying to force a law to rig the elections," Midiwo said.

The bill needs Senate passage and approval by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is running for re-election.

Kenya tried to digitize its election process in the 2013 elections in an effort to prevent the vote-rigging in 2007 that sparked violence killing more than 1 000 people. But biometric kits to scan people's fingers didn't work properly and a server handling voting results crashed, and the process was completed manually.

Odinga unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court challenging Kenyatta's 2013 win, claiming the system was set up to fail to allow the more easily manipulated manual system. Kenyatta received a majority of votes to avoid a runoff with Odinga, by 4,099 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast.

Odinga is Kenyatta's closest challenger in the upcoming election. Kenyatta led Odinga 50% to 22% in a recent opinion poll.

The Catholic church, with 11 million followers in a country of 40 million, condemned the passing of the bill. The chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Justice and Peace Commission, Reverend Cornelius Korir, said it goes against the spirit of jointly negotiated amendments to reform electoral laws passed in August by parliament. Those changes came after violent street protests accusing the electoral commission of corruption and bias.

Many of the August amendments stipulated that the election process should be digitized.

Read more on:    raila odinga  |  kenya  |  kenya 2017 elections  |  east africa

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