Kenyan Court Asked to Order New Election For President

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- Raila Odinga, the second-place finisher in Kenya's presidential race this month, filed a sweeping petition before Kenya's Supreme Court on Saturday contending "glaring anomalies" in the vote and calling for the court to nullify the results and order a new election.

Mr. Odinga has been urging his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from rioting, as they did in 2007 when he narrowly lost Kenya's last presidential election amid widespread evidence of vote rigging similar to the allegations he is making now.

So far, the peace has held, though on Saturday police officers fired tear gas at Odinga supporters who had gathered in front of the Supreme Court in downtown Nairobi to show their solidarity.

The case is sure to be a test of Kenya's recently overhauled judiciary. It is now much more widely respected, but some analysts have questioned whether all six Supreme Court justices will be able to withstand the pressure of refereeing such a high stakes contest for power. Even before the election, the chief justice received death threats, and analysts have raised questions about the independence of some of the other justices.

On March 4, millions of Kenyans flooded to the polls, some waiting in line for 10 hours to cast their ballots. According to the national election commission, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, won 50.07 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff by a minuscule margin of about 8,000 votes.

Mr. Odinga won about 43 percent. But in his petition, which his lawyers have been working on for the past week, he claims that his vote was covertly reduced and that Mr. Kenyatta's was inflated in a "deliberate, well-calculated and executed ploy" to hand the election to Mr. Kenyatta.

Many outside countries are watching closely to see if Kenya can handle a disputed election without erupting as it did in 2007 and 2008, when more than 1,000 people were killed.

Many Western officials had hoped that Mr. Odinga would win because Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, have been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity connected to the violence last time.

In his petition, Mr. Odinga levels a variety of complaints, from the "catastrophic scale" of computer failures to discrepancies between results announced publicly and results entered into the final tally.

The election commission has acknowledged that some of its newly installed computer systems malfunctioned but said the results were still valid.

Mr. Kenyatta, who is also one of the richest men in this part of Africa, has insisted that the election is "over."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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