The last minute cancellation of two scheduled rallies at the Coast this weekend has cast doubts over Nasa’s participation in the October 26 repeat presidential election.
That the opposition could be dead serious on its resolve not to participate in the election unless its “irreducible minimum” demands are met was intensified by revelations that the Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga was planning a trip to the UK this week at a time when his rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto, have intensified their campaigns with less than three weeks to the election.
To compound matters, the Nation was reliably informed the opposition was yet to submit its list of agents for the repeat election.
Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango confirmed the opposition chief would visit the UK this coming week. “He is travelling to the UK,” Mr Onyango said in a short text message.
“He is supposed to deliver a lecture at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK,” he added.
On the cancellation of the Coast rallies, Mr Onyango explained the decision was taken because they coincided with President Kenyatta’s trip to the region today.
“We want them to finish their rallies first before we go there,” said Mr Onyango.
The Nasa brigade had been scheduled to hold a meet-the-people-tour before addressing a rally in Mombasa town on Saturday.
They would then have proceeded to Kwale county on Sunday for a rally at Ukunda in the afternoon.
The Nation learnt part of the reason the rallies were called off was because Mombasa Governor Ali Joho is out of the country.
Highly placed sources within Nasa told the Nation the opposition coalition was mulling over various options should the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) fail to meet their “irreducible minimum” conditions. A team headed by Siaya Senator and Mr Odinga’s lead counsel during the presidential election petition James Orengo has been tasked with exploring the various options and their legal and political implications.
But, even as he mulls over the tough options, Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta are under intense pressure from the West to drop their hardline stance and ensure a free and fair repeat election.
Mr Odinga has announced he will not participate in the election unless electoral reforms are effected but Western powers are said to have reached out to him last week to reconsider his decision.
A source who attended a Nasa meeting on Thursday at Okoa Kenya said they agreed on a team of experts to study the full impact of skipping the poll.
Mr Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka are also understood to have briefed their colleagues on behind-the-scenes attempts by envoys to persuade them to participate in the election.
Mr Kenyatta has not been spared either. US ambassador Robert Godec is understood to have this week asked him to steer the country out of a looming crisis.
In particular, he has been told to prevail on his troops in Parliament to drop the proposed amendments to electoral laws that have irked the opposition which argues the rules of the game cannot be changed midway through the contest.
The changes promise to alter the electoral infrastructure, allowing manual voting and results transmission as well as lowering quorum requirement at the IEBC.
If passed, it also makes it easy for any of the commissioners to act as chairman and declare presidential results. If he gives in to the demands, Mr Kenyatta could decline to assent to the Bill once it is presented to him since the National Assembly is poised to dispense with it this week.
It is a case of horse-trading. When push comes to shove, Mr Kenyatta is said to be willing to drop the amendments on condition Mr Odinga, too, ends his demand to send some senior IEBC officials packing as well as call off the countrywide protests, his only available tool of bargain given he does not have the numbers in a Parliament that is dominated by Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee party. The country seems headed for a serious crisis as uncertainty grows over whether the repeat election will go on as planned.
Mr Odinga holds that going to the poll with the IEBC as constituted is akin to walking oneself to a slaughterhouse. He believes the commission is thoroughly infiltrated by Mr Kenyatta’s people, in the process skewing it in his favour.
“We are determined to continue with our push for electoral reforms to ensure a level playing field for a free, fair and credible election. With these, we must reach Canaan,” Mr Odinga said yesterday.
But like the adage that if you want peace, prepare for war, we have established that Mr Kenyatta’s war council has several plans lined up for execution.
Convinced that it can bulldoze all the necessary amendments to law to give Mr Kenyatta an easy ride, a majority of senior Jubilee members see no need of negotiating with Nasa whom they consider weak and lacking strategy in the House.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are reportedly warming up to this option. The headache, however, is how to take care of the international community who feel that is a toxic move to take. The director of elections in Mr Odinga’s party Junet Mohamed counters that nothing good comes easy. He said Kenyans can put up with a brief period of hardship as they work on broad reforms for posterity.
“We would rather suffer briefly but in the end get it right. The truth is the country is headed in the wrong direction and needs serious fixing, this is what we are doing,” he said.
Jubilee will be hoping Mr Odinga formally writes to IEBC communicating his decision not to take part in the polls in which case they will go ahead and swear in Mr Kenyatta for a second term in office.
Jubilee party vice-chairman David Murathe insists that whether Nasa participates in the polls or not, IEBC will announce the poll winner later this month.
“We are not joking about this. They like it or not, there will be elections on October 26. This sort of blackmail must end,” he said.
Sources in Nasa say they will not only avoid the polls but also ensure their supporters do not vote to deny Mr Kenyatta credibility. The Constitution talks of having elections in the 290 constituencies.
The law is silent on what happens in the event no elections are held within 60 days as stipulated in the Constitution. Attorney- General Githu Muigai, who is also President Kenyatta’s legal adviser, reckons the law does not envisage any form of the government, coalition or caretaker, even in the event the elections are not held.
“The integrity of the constitutional order cannot be substituted by any other form or arrangement of government as this would violate the express provision of Article 3(2) of the Constitution and therefore for the avoidance of doubt there is no constitutional basis for a caretaker government or a transition government,” he told the Nation.
But with the law silent on what should follow in the event an election is not held after the stipulated 60 days following the nullification of the result of a presidential contest, observers point out that political settlement is the only way out.
The Nation established that envoys had been trying to get audience with Mr Odinga for the better part of the week with no success.
At the same time, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have been urged to consider nominating representatives to be embedded in the electoral commission to monitor every stage of preparations for the repeat election to end the stalemate over election preparations.
In a new report, the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organisation, warns the standoff between the two parties could trigger a crisis if the election does not go ahead as scheduled.
The Brussels-based organisation asked Jubilee and Nasa leaders to abandon the path of brinkmanship and strike an agreement.
“One way forward might be for both camps to embed an agreed number of party representatives in the IEBC to observe every stage of preparations,” Crisis Group’s report says.