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Eleventh hour court challenge could delay Kenya vote

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Kisumu governor Anyang Nyongo addresses NASA supporters outside the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) offices during protests called for by NASA presidential candidate Odinga to boycott the upcoming elections on October 24, 2017 in Kisumu, Kenya.  AFP PHOTO / KEVIN MIDIGO

Kenya’s Supreme Court said Tuesday it would meet on the eve of the country’s presidential election re-run to hear a last-minute petition challenging the ballot.

Chief Justice David Maraga, who presided over the annulling of August’s original flawed vote, said he will hear a petition filed by human rights activists arguing Kenya is not ready for Thursday’s re-run.

“Matter to be heard at 10.00 am (07:00 GMT) tomorrow,” Maraga ordered in a statement.

Maraga said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as “all the Presidential candidates” must submit their written submissions before the hearing.

Kenya’s disputed presidential poll has been beset by legal challenges, including one brought by opposition leader Raila Odinga which led to the Supreme Court overturning President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory on September 1 and ordering a re-run within 60 days.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this latest petition, filed on Sunday, raises the possibility that Thursday’s election may be delayed.

“We are hoping they will cancel elections on October 26,” said activist Khelef Khalifa of Muslims for Human Rights.

He filed the petition alongside Samwel Mohochi of the Kenya branch of the International Commission of Jurists, and Gacheke Gachihi — also known as Nahashon Kamau — of the Mathare Social Justice Centre in Nairobi.

The petitioners cite several arguments for delaying the vote.

They include Odinga’s withdrawal from the re-run two weeks ago which they say means the vote must be cancelled and the IEBC chairman’s own admission last week that “a free, fair and credible election” could not be guaranteed as the constitution demands.

They argue that a delay of up to 90 days should be ordered by the Supreme Court.

The opposition, as well as some analysts, have also called for a delay, but Kenyatta has insisted the vote should go ahead as planned despite Odinga’s boycott and ongoing protests.

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