Kenya’s fragile political system has veered between breakthrough and breakdown over the past two months amid a hotly contested presidential election. Now the country itself appears in danger of a violent implosion. The government of Uhuru Kenyatta insists it will go ahead with a rerun of the presidential vote on Thursday even though the incumbent’s principal challenger has withdrawn and senior election officials have warned that the outcome will not be credible. That could lead to mass protests and bloodshed — not to mention a major setback for African democracy.
The election system appeared to have worked in August, when international observers, including former secretary of state John F. Kerry, praised a vote that appeared to give a decisive victory to Mr. Kenyatta over challenger Raila Odinga. But to the surprise of all sides, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 1 that election officials had not observed proper procedures for tabulating and reporting the vote, and it annulled the election. That, too, could have strengthened Kenya’s institutions — if Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga had not both played a spoiling role.
Under pressure from Western governments, Mr. Kenyatta accepted the Supreme Court’s decision. But he then did everything possible to nullify it. His supporters in parliament pushed a new law making it harder for the court to invalidate elections. Meanwhile, his supporters on the electoral commission blocked proposals to reform procedures and remove officials involved in the previous irregularities.