World

Kenya election looks ready to proceed after last-minute court challenge fails

Only two of six justices in Kenya's Supreme Court show up to hear a petition to postpone the Thursday presidential election. The petition argued not enough had been done to ensure it is a credible contest, and that it could lead to anarchy.

Kenyans panic shop for fear legitimacy of rescheduled vote Thursday will be questioned

A supporter of Opposition Leader Raila Odinga wears a mock banknote with Odinga's face on his forehead at a rally in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi on Wednesday. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

Opposition Leader Raila Odinga's lawyer said Wednesday it was not by accident that the Supreme Court did not have a quorum to hear an urgent appeal to postpone the repeat presidential elections in Kenya.

James Orengo said President Uhuru Kenyatta tried to prevent the court hearing by declaring public holidays on Wednesday and Thursday.

Only two of six justices showed to hear a petition by three voters to postpone the Thursday presidential election. They have argued that not enough had been done to ensure it is credible, and that it could lead to anarchy.

In his announcement on live television, Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad and another was unable to attend after her bodyguard was shot and injured on Tuesday night. It was unclear why the others were absent.

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      The head of the election board, Wafula Chebukati, said the polls would proceed.

      "The elections, as scheduled, will go on tomorrow. All polling stations will open tomorrow at 6 a.m," he said.

      The court shocked Kenya last month when it nullified Kenyatta's re-election victory in August, citing irregularities and illegalities, and the electoral commission's unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinize its servers. Odinga claimed hackers had infiltrated the servers and manipulated the vote.

      Odinga is boycotting the do-over election, saying credible elections are not possible because the electoral commission has not been reformed. The head of the electoral commission has also said free and fair elections are not possible.

      Odinga urges boycott

      Kenyatta has said he want the election to continue despite the concerns.

      Odinga urged supporters to boycott Thursday's repeat presidential election and persuade their friends to do the same, saying his opposition movement would be transformed into a resistance movement against the government.

      "From today we are transforming the NASA coalition into a resistance movement," he told a cheering crowd of thousands of people in Uhuru Park in the capital of Nairobi. He wants new elections held within 90 days, he said.

      Chief Justice of Kenya David Maraga speaks at the Supreme Court on Wednesday in Nairobi. He said the court couldn't hear a last-minute petition to postpone Thursday's presidential election because it does not have a quorum of judges. (Darko Bandic/Associated Press)

      Thousands of opposition supporters converged on Uhuru Park, waiting for Odinga to give a speech in which he was to outline his strategy for election day.

      Orange caps and T-shirts with Odinga's initials, R.A.O., were handed out to the delight of the crowd.

      Across the country, at the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, in western Kenya, Odinga supporters suggested they would disrupt Thursday's vote.

      Those remaining out of the political fray stocked up on supplies.

      Nairobi resident Cosmas Butunyi said there are long lines of Kenyans who are panic shopping in a country where hundreds died in the aftermath of a disputed late 2007 election.

      "I had gone to buy milk for the week and I found long lines so I also decided to stock up," Butunyi said.

      Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga urged supporters to boycott Thursday's vote at a rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

      Dozens have reportedly been killed since the initial vote in August this time around, according to human rights organizations.

      Hours before Wednesday's hearing of the top court, the driver of the deputy chief justice was shot in what many saw as intimidation of the judiciary. In the run-up to the August vote, an electoral commission member was found tortured and killed, although the motives for the crime haven't been officially established.

      With files from Reuters