The Vice President of Kenya William Ruto was on Monday declared winner of the August 9 presidential election by the head of the electoral commission. However, the majority of the election commissioners said minutes later that they could not stand by the outcome, raising the prospect of uncertainty and instability in East Africa’s biggest economy.
Juliana Cherera, a vice chairwoman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, who spoke on behalf of four of the country’s seven commissioners said that the panel could not take ownership of the results because of what she described as the “opaque nature” of the election’s handling.
Despite the disagreement on the outcome, Ruto celebrated his victory in a speech after the announcement. “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. I want to thank God for getting us to this point. I want to thank God that today we have concluded this election,” said the 55-year old wealthy businessman and politician.
Although there were four candidates, the election was mainly between Ruto and Raila Odinga, a veteran opposition leader who has ran previously four times and lost.
The statement by Cherera may throw Kenya into chaos as tensions continued to rise a week after Kenyans cast their ballots last Tuesday. The election commission and the media had all said the election seemed to be too close to call.
The August election was expected to be highly competitive with only four presidential candidates on the ballot, the lowest since 1992. The candidates were Deputy President William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance Party, former prime minister Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, George Wajackoyah of the Roots Party of Kenya, and David Waihiga Mwaure of the Agano Party.
Presidential elections in Kenya have historically been disputed and often marred by political violence and intimidation. Many had said that this year’s election could be indicative of the extent to which political progress has been made in Kenya. Political scientists had even predicted that this was going to be one of the nation’s closest and most highly contested elections.