Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kenya opposition boycotts parliament opening

Kenya's opposition boycotted the opening session of parliament on Tuesday after the Supreme Court cancelled the result of last month's presidential election and ordered a fresh vote.

President Uhuru Kenyatta -- who had his victory in the August 8 poll annulled on September 1 -- led proceedings, while opposition lawmakers made good on a promise to boycott the ceremony.

Supreme Court judges normally attend the opening of parliament but also stayed away.

"No matter the political noises that are loudest during elections, I want to assure every Kenyan, and the world, that every arm of government is in place and operational," said Kenyatta. "There is no void and there is no lacuna."

Kenya's election commission set October 17 as the date for a new presidential vote between Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, following the Supreme Court ruling.

"Even though I strongly disagreed with that decision, I accepted it," Kenyatta said, reminding MPs that upholding the constitution "does not mean always having your way."

Kenyatta took a swipe at the opposition, who have alleged computer hacking, fraudulent result tallying and questionable tendering in last month's elections, saying, "a marked ballot represents more than technology, more than computers systems, or even where it was printed."

Nearly two-thirds of Kenya's 349 lawmakers belong to Kenyatta's Jubilee and affiliated parties, and there was sporadic applause from the floor.

"The mark is the choice of a sovereign people. Their choice is sacred and must never again be frustrated or ignored," he said.

At the same time Odinga held a rally alongside other opposition leaders and lawmakers in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, dismissing the opening of parliament as "a Jubilee meeting"

"The president has no powers to open parliament because his victory was nullified by the court," said Odinga. "Parliament can only be opened by a validly elected president. He was not."

Odinga also reiterated demands that the election commission be overhauled if his National Super Alliance coalition is to participate in next month's vote.


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