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December 10, 2018

What Raila's not conceding means

Nasa presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga. /FILE
Nasa presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga. /FILE

Raila has stated many times he will not concede defeat unless the election is free and fair. This actually sounds like a very reasonable position to take, especially when one is a presidential candidate who is making their fourth official attempt and believes he has lost unfairly in the past. However, the devil is in the details, as they say. Raila does not explain who defines ‘free and fair’.

My first assumption is that elections are free and fair as defined by the law. This means that the person who makes this call is the IEBC. However, Raila has spent the last four years bastardising this institution. I, therefore, highly suspect that even if it gave the election a clean bill of health, Raila will not take its word for it.

The second option would be the Judiciary. This is where ordinary Kenyans go if they suspect the elections are not free and fair. The Judiciary – especially the Supreme Court that was set up specifically to deal with presidential petitions – would be where one would then expect Raila to go if the election looked ‘fishy’ to him. He is, however, on record saying he will not go to court this time if he is not happy with the election.

So, essentially, we can confirm that Raila will not use the formal structures to determine whether the election is free and fair. So we look at a third option. This is where Raila looks to third parties, especially local or international election observers. Raila can decide that the polls will only be free or fair if election observers say so.

However, election observers are not infallible. They are pursuing their own interests. I also suspect that for every one that will say the election is free and fair there will be another that will say the opposite. I, therefore, suspect that Raila will not take this option either.

The fourth option is for Raila to depend on his political system to make this determination. Raila will then collect his own election results from the more than 33,000 polling stations, tally them in his private tallying centre, and announce them. He will then only accept the election is free and fair if the official tally from the IEBC corresponds to his own personal tally.

If it does not, he will then claim the election was not free and fair. This looks like the option Raila would prefer. The only problem with this option is that nothing stops him from cooking figures to his benefit. It is also illegal.

Apart from the ‘how’ of Raila determining the election as free and fair, there is the ‘when’. Is there a time factor to determine at what point Raila decides whether the election is free and fair? Is it immediately the results are announced, a week later, a month later; when?

Finally, there is the ‘what then’. If Raila decides that the election is not free and fair – according to him – then what? Will ‘Kenya burn’ as his key adviser David Ndii tweeted? Will ‘some people have to die’ as his Nairobi ODM chairman George Aladwa said? What does ‘I will not concede’ actually mean? Is it violence and destruction in Kenya? Where? By whom? On whom?

Raila’s primary competitor – President Uhuru Kenyatta – has not given conditions on his conceding if he loses. Raila has. He must, therefore, answer the questions above, urgently. The 19.6 million Kenyans voting in August will not be competitors. It is only fair that these Kenyans know what will happen to them if one of the presidential candidates decides not to accept the election results.

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