Raila Odinga. Picture: REUTERS
Raila Odinga. Picture: REUTERS

Nairobi — Kenyan opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Tuesday withdrew from a rerun of the country’s annulled presidential election, pushing the East African nation towards a constitutional crisis.

Odinga, the leader of the National Super Alliance, said he was pulling out of the race because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission refused to discuss proposed changes to its personnel and procedures to ensure the vote is free and fair. The announcement came as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party proposed amendments to the electoral law that would allow the authority to declare a winner if one of the contestants withdraws from the contest.

"We are going to a major political crisis, a major constitutional crisis," Prof Peter Wanyande, a political scientist at the University of Nairobi, said. "In a democracy, which we are by virtue of our constitution, you cannot hold an election with only one candidate."

Uncertainty about the rerun has unnerved investors and clouded the outlook for an economy that’s already struggling to expand because of a prolonged drought.

Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy and the world’s largest tea exporter, is a regional hub for companies including Toyota Motor and General Electric. Tullow Oil is among firms that may exploit an estimated 1-billion barrels of crude reserves discovered in the north of the country.

Worst Performer

Kenya’s Nairobi Securities Exchange All Share Index is the worst performing index in Africa and the fifth worst performer in the world since September 1, when the vote was nullified by the Supreme Court.

Kenya’s currency was unchanged at 103.30 per dollar and the yield on the nation’s Eurobonds fell four basis points to 6.31% in Nairobi.

Odinga’s withdrawal comes after his alliance failed to reach an agreement with the electoral commission in talks about changing the ways the authority will handle the vote. The court annulled the election, which Odinga lost, after saying the commission committed "irregularities and illegalities".

"All indications are that the election scheduled for October 26 will be worse than the previous one," Odinga said on Tuesday in the capital, Nairobi. "Considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large, we believe that all will be best served by Nasa vacating its presidential candidature in the election."

The opposition plans to hold nationwide protests on Wednesday, including a mass gathering in Nairobi, James Orengo, an opposition senator, said at the briefing.

Previous disputes over elections in Kenya have led to violence, the most serious being in 2007, when clashes left more than 1,100 people dead and forced 350,000 more to flee their homes. That resulted in growth slumping to 1.7% in 2008 from 7.1% a year earlier.

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