NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win citing irregularities on Friday and ordered a new poll within 60 days after last month’s voting was followed by protests and sporadic violence that killed at least 28 people.
The decision to cancel the result, the first of its kind in Kenya, sets up a new race for the presidency between Kenyatta, 55, and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, 72.
East Africa’s biggest economy has a history of disputed elections. A row over the 2007 poll, which Odinga challenged after being declared loser, was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed in which more than 1,200 people were killed.
Friday’s ruling, which sent shares plummeting on the Nairobi bourse, brought celebrating Odinga supporters onto the streets of his western heartland. In court, a grinning Odinga pumped his fist in the air as his supporters cheered and shook his hand.
“The declaration (of Kenyatta’s win) is invalid, null and void,” said Judge David Maranga, announcing a verdict backed by four of the six judges.
He said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.”
Official results had given Kenyatta 54.3 percent of the vote, compared to Odinga’s 44.7 percent, a lead of 1.4 million votes. Kenyatta’s ruling party also swept the legislature.
“This indeed is a very historic day for the people of Kenya,” Odinga said after the decision. “For the first time in history of African democratization a ruling has been made by a court nullifying irregular elections for the president.”
International observers had said they saw no sign of manipulation of voting and tallying at polling stations.
Civil society groups said the election board was too slow posting results from polling stations. Thousands were missing when official results were declared, so opponents could not check totals. Court experts said some documents lacked official stamps or had figures that did not match official tallies.
At least 28 people were killed in violence after Kenyatta was initially declared victor. Most were shot or beaten to death by police amid scattered protests in opposition strongholds.