Nairobi, Kenya – William Samoei Arap Ruto, deputy president of Kenya since 2013, has been declared winner of a keenly contested election in East Africa’s powerhouse.
Ruto won the election by a narrow margin, garnering 50.49 percent of the votes to his closest challenger Raila Odinga’s 48.85 percent.
“I stand before you despite intimidation and harassment,” Wafula Chebukati, chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said early Monday evening. “I have done my duty according to the laws of the land.”
“In accordance with the law, I … hereby declare that Ruto William Samoei has been duly elected as the president.”
Chebukati’s announcement came within an hour after his deputy Juliana Cherera led three other commissioners out of the tallying centre to proclaim their dissent elsewhere in Nairobi.
“We are not at Bomas [tallying centre] because we cannot take ownership of the results that are going to be announced,” Cherera said at a press conference before the results were made public, giving no further details.
What have the official reactions been?
“I will run a transparent, open, democratic government and I will work with the opposition to the extent that they provide oversight over my administration,” Ruto said in his victory speech.
Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa have tweeted their congratulations to the president-elect.
Najib Balala, a member of Kenya’s ruling party and the country’s cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, also tweeted his congratulations on Monday evening. “It is by God’s grace and the true will of the people, you were elected President. You have the ability to transform this country for the betterment of all,” he said.
Meanwhile, former justice minister Martha Karu, who ran alongside Odinga, tweeted, “It is not over until it is over”, after the results. This has prompted speculation about a legal challenge from her team, something Odinga will be familiar with.
Congratulations on your victory Dr. William Ruto, President-Elect, Republic of Kenya 🇰🇪. It is by God's grace and the true will of the people, you were elected President. You have the ability to transform this country for the betterment of all… pic.twitter.com/fvNbzPrCLr
— Hon. Najib Balala (@tunajibu) August 15, 2022
How have supporters reacted?
In the days immediately before Tuesday’s vote and afterwards, business and governance slowed down as an uneasy calm enveloped the nation.
After the results, there were protests in parts of Nairobi and Odinga’s hometown Kisumu, 350km (217 miles) northwest of the capital. By contrast, there was jubilation among Ruto’s kin in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret and in the neighbouring North Rift’s Kapsabet, where he attended high school.
Now that the president-elect has been announced, he will take an oath of allegiance to the constitution, administered by the Kenyan chief justice within 14 days of Monday’s announcement.
Given the tightly contested elections and arising controversies, legal battles are expected, as has been the case in the last few electoral cycles. Ngala Chome, lead researcher at Nairobi think-tank Sahan Research, told Al Jazeera that Odinga’s camp would “very likely” contest the results. “We saw that a few minutes before the results were announced his party agent had refused to sign the required forms,” he said.
According to the constitution, a petition can be filed at the Supreme Court – and this could also come from proxies or any other aggrieved parties, rather than just Odinga’s team – to challenge the election within seven days after Monday’s declaration of the results.
The apex court has to hear and decide on any petitions within 14 days after filing. Its decision is final and binding.
If the Supreme Court nullifies the results, a fresh election will then be held within 60 days after the decision.
If the petitions are thrown out, the swearing-in will proceed on the first Tuesday, 14 days after Monday’s announcement of results.
The oath-taking and swearing-in will happen seven days after the date on which the court renders a decision declaring the election to be valid, if any petition was filed.
At the time of the announcement, only three IEBC commissioners including Chebukati were present at the tallying centre. The other four had left to disown the results at a press conference elsewhere. Odinga spokesman Makau Mutua has described the chairperson’s announcement as “invalid because he had no quorum of commissioners to hold a plenary and make such a weighty decision”.
Steve Ogolla, managing partner of Nairobi-based law firm Saroni & Stevens Advocates, disagrees. “Article 138(10) of the Constitution provides that the chairperson of IEBC shall declare the results of the presidential election”, he said. “The law does not demand quorum. Differently put, [the] walkout by four commissioners taints but does not invalidate the results.”
2017 rerun election
In 2017, the presidential vote was nullified by the Supreme Court, citing irregularities. Odinga claimed that the results had been hacked and the court took action when the IEBC did not provide its computer servers for inspection.
The rerun held in October that year was boycotted by Odinga. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta won more than 98 percent of the votes and was sworn in for a second term.
That nullification led to the IEBC incrementally uploading result forms from the polling units to a public portal, immediately after this election was concluded.
Aggrieved parties hoping for a similar cancellation will have to go the extra mile, analysts say. “Anyone going to Supreme Court [in 2022] will be working on the arithmetic,” Nairobi-based political analyst Dismas Mokua told Al Jazeera. “Because unless there is a magician somewhere who has the ability to hack the IEBC infrastructure, download and upload new things, the probability of rigging is zero.”
Last Friday, the committee responsible for a smooth power transition held its first meeting. Chaired by Joseph Kinyua, head of the country’s public service, it comprises a dozen members including National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Philip Kameru and several other high-ranking public servants.
The transition committee has said it is ready to hand over power to the new president-elect, but friction cannot be ruled out now that Ruto has won. This, analysts say, is because of President Kenyatta’s backing of Odinga, using state machinery and top government officials.
“The key members of the committee all have shown a bias towards one candidate, Odinga, whom they drummed support for and attended some of his political campaign rallies,” political analyst Nicholas Ouma told Al Jazeera. “With very important power vested unto them, they will have to openly set aside their differences and discharge their duties accordingly.”