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Kenya opposition rebukes amendments to voting law

media The ruling party of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is again accused of rigging elections Getty Images

Members of the opposition in Kenya stormed out of parliament this week, after a fight erupted during heated debate over a controversial new election bill.

Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party faced a bitter backlash from the opposition CORD coalition when lawmakers passed a controversial amendment that will allow ballots for next year's presidential election to be counted manually.

The opposition argued the ruling party will use the amendment to rig the elections, while the ruling party defended its actions, saying the legislation will ensure that people in rural areas have the chance to vote.

“We have only eight months until the election, I don’t think it’s the right time to be doing this,” Constantine Ogari, a Kenyan lawyer, told RFI, adding “the timing is suspicious.”

The ruling party voted on the measure in a special session as opposition members protested outside parliament.

Meanwhile opposition leader Raila Odinga was in a Nairobi court attempting to block the amendment.

Democratic elections or none

This isn’t the first time President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling party has been accused by the opposition of rigging the election.

In 2013, votes were counted manually with the help of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission after the state’s electronic system crashed.

The opposition accused the IEBC of tallying the election in Kenyatta’s favour.

Those nine opposition members stepped down amidst pressure from the opposition in October, while the new members of the IEBC released a statement on Thursday saying they were ‘concerned’ by the new amendment.

In 2007, a wave of ethnic violence broke out across the country after Odinga accused the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote.

Fighting broke out across tribal lines following that election, and more than 1,100 were killed.

Analysts fear the 2017 elections may turn into a repeat of the 2007 violence based on the way things have been shaping up in the run up to August.

Odinga has called for mass protests beginning January 4, stating "if there is no democratic election, then there will be no elections in Kenya."

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