NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya will not face a constitutional or political crisis even if a planned re-run of its presidential election, now set for Oct. 26, is delayed beyond the end of October, the attorney general said on Friday.
The Supreme Court this month annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August 8 election win, citing irregularities, and ordered the election board to organize a new poll by the end of October.
Kenyatta is expected to face off again with opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Odinga’s lead lawyer in a petition that led to the invalidation of Kenyatta’s re-election, James Orengo, said on Wednesday that if the election were not held by the end of October, Kenyatta’s term in office would cease, thrusting the country into a deep constitutional crisis.
“The government now in office legitimately remains in office by full force of the constitution until the fresh election is complete and the new leader sworn in”, Githu Muigai, the attorney general, told a news conference.
“(Any delay in poll) does not delegitimize the constitutional order of the day... There is absolutely no chance of a crisis around the date because the election did take place and... we are again inside the election cycle,” he added.
Odinga’s NASA coalition said it believed Kenyatta’s term would end 60 days after the Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 1 that nullified the August election. Odinga has said he will not take part in the election if certain conditions are not met, including the removal of some election board officials.
Moses Wetangula, one of NASA’s leaders, accused Muigai of misreading the constitution.
“He’s simply being mischievous,” Wetangula told a news conference also addressed by Odinga on Friday.
Kenya has the region’s richest economy and is a key Western ally in a region often shaken by violence. The repeat election is being closely watched for signs of tension that could spark violence as in 2007 when more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed.
This week Kenyatta accused the Supreme Court of staging a “coup” against the will of the people when it annulled his win, in a sign that the political rhetoric is heating up ahead of the new poll.
Odinga accused Kenyatta of dragging Kenya down the path of other African states that have suffered upheaval over elections, including Gambia. He added the opposition had lost hope that Kenyatta would “sober up, mature and see the need to stop”.
On Thursday the election board pushed back the date of the election re-run to Oct. 26 after a French firm whose technology is being used in the polls said it was nearly impossible to be ready for the originally scheduled date of Oct. 17.
Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Gareth Jones