Expect frenzied campaigns and a frantic run-in to a historic poll. For the first time, Kenyans face a re-run of a presidential poll. For the first time, a court annulled a result declared by the polls umpire and raised political temperatures tremendously.
For the last time, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga are duelling in a brutal, poisoned and personalised fight to the finish.
Why? One, President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have polluted the election.
Within hours of the ruling, they viciously attacked the Supreme Court. They took umbrage in its decision to void the declaration of President Kenyatta winner of August 8’s poll by the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC).
They questioned the court’s decisional independence and termed the verdict a subversion of the will of Kenyans.
Their language was ill-tempered and ill-omened and their attitude contemptuous.
Specifically, the President angrily called the justices of Kenya’s apex court wakora, which translates as crooks, degenerate characters or thugs.
He warned that Kenya has a problem with the Judiciary and it must be fixed.
The President reminded the justices that they were handling a sitting President and described their verdict as political.
The Deputy President alleged a link between the justices and Mr Odinga, hence the verdict in their rival’s favour.
PULLING NO PUNCHES
Pulling no punches, he called the judgment upuzi, which translates as nonsense. Keen to shame, President and Deputy named Chief Justice David Maraga, the President of the Supreme Court, in their public outpourings.
The duo sought to define and set the tone for the rerun by portraying themselves and IEBC as victims of a conspiracy between Mr Odinga and the Supreme Court. Helpfully, IEBC, which was supremely indicted by the court, is a favourite attack target of Mr Odinga’s.
President and Deputy followed a familiar script. In the 2013 election, Mr Odinga and the West were accused of selling out Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to the International Criminal Court where they were arraigned on career-ending crimes-against-humanity charges.
Admirably, the President advised Mr Odinga to go to court if he was aggrieved by his victory and commended him when he did. But his reaction to the verdict, slightly over a fortnight later, betrayed expectation of a favourable outcome and showed he took the nullification very hard.
But for attacking the Judiciary, President and Deputy exposed themselves to accusations of Executive intolerance for a co-equal arm of government and fighting constitutionally-enshrined checks and balances to power.
Two, both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have unfinished reputational business. The latter believes that in 2007, 2013 and last month, he was denied poll victories. Winning the re-run will vindicate him forever; losing will convict him permanently.
He also does not want to emulate his father and go down in history as a hero who reigned but never ruled. And winning the presidency would signify the highest recognition for his well-publicised struggle for civil rights.
The President wants to prove that voiding his victory was wrong. The way to prove it is to win the re-run by a considerable margin. He also wants to win it badly because he does not want to become Kenya’s first one-term president.
Three, it is in the interests of the President and Mr Odinga that Kenyans who voted for them on August 8, plus millions more, turn up to vote on October 17 because each wants to prove that he won last month. If supporters turn out in large numbers to ensure their candidate prevails, the poll could be a record breaker.
Last, for August 8, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga campaigned for themselves and for their choices for legislators and governors countrywide. Now they have armies of energised national and county legislators and governors to campaign for them.
Therefore, expect countrywide intensity and cacophony, but not brilliant exchanges about policy and programmes.
On the stump, angry politicians are often ugly; spewing out hatred and fear-mongering. Little wonder, then, stung by claims that he wants to bully his way into government through the backdoor of the courts, Mr Odinga retorted that he cannot share power with thieves. He, too, was defining his opponents and setting the tone for his base and campaign.
Be that as it may, the winner will keep his strongholds; stay competitive in the so-called swing zones; and flip some counties he lost on August 8. He will have better organisation and strategies.
Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]