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Kenya to find out if disputed election result holds

  • Kenya's Supreme Court has until Monday to decide whether it will uphold last month's disputed presidential election result
  • Since October's vote, the main opposition party has encouraged the boycott of several companies linked to the government
  • Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich told KTN News that the country's voting cycles had cost 1 percent of the country's gross domestic product growth
Lawyers at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 14, 2017, ahead of a hearing on October 26's repeat presidential election.
Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images
Lawyers at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 14, 2017, ahead of a hearing on October 26's repeat presidential election.

Kenya's Supreme Court has until Monday to decide whether it will uphold last month's disputed presidential election result, a ruling that could put an end to the country's political crisis.

The East African country has witnessed two presidential elections in less than three months, following its judiciary ruling that August's disputed presidential vote be re-run. The second election, held October 26, saw incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta once again victorious with 98 percent of the vote – although less than 40 percent of Kenyan's electorate showed up at the polls.

Earlier in November, former lawmaker Harun Mwau filed a petition to the Supreme Court to overturn October's result on the premise that Kenya's electoral commission did not conduct fresh nominations for the vote. Hearings began this week.

In the unrest that followed the second election result, the opposition National Super Alliance encouraged its supporters to boycott several key companies in the country.

Communications firm Safaricom, which operates popular payment platform M-Pesa, as well as products by Brookside Dairies and consumer goods company Bidco Kenya, are all being targeted due to their ties to the government.

Safaricom declined CNBC's request for comment. Local press have reported M-Pesa's national chairman as saying that the boycott could result in the loss of 1 million jobs.

But Jacques Nel, senior economist at NKC African Economics, told CNBC that the companies targeted "have or are close to having monopoly positions," meaning that "Kenyans would really have to go out of their way to partake in the boycott." "I think the impact on the economy won't be that significant precisely because it would be very inconvenient and disrupt the daily lives of Kenyans," he added.

A member of the security forces stands guard during the country's presidential election rerun in Nairobi, Kenya, on October 26, 2017.
Bryan Jaybee | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A member of the security forces stands guard during the country's presidential election rerun in Nairobi, Kenya, on October 26, 2017.

Kenya's election saga is weighing on the country's otherwise buoyant macroeconomic picture, with the government in September lowering its 2017 economic growth forecast to 5.5 percent, citing drought and political uncertainty. Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich told KTN News that the country's voting cycles had cost 1 percent of the country's gross domestic product growth.

Ahmed Salim, senior associate for East Africa at consultancy Teneo Intelligence, wrote in a November 7 note that he expects Kenyatta's second victory to be upheld by the Supreme Court, and that the president will be sworn in once again at the end of November. "The cost and political strife from the last decision is still an open sore," thereby deterring further upheaval from the judiciary, Salim wrote.

"Whether the new administration will be able to get the economy quickly back on track remains doubtful, however; any key economic policy decisions are unlikely to take shape before mid-2018."

Emad Mostaque of emerging markets investment firm Capricorn Investments was negative on investing in Kenya more broadly, citing "political shenanigans dragging on the economy." "The promised economic revolution (of previous years) never really transitioned into stability," he told CNBC.

While unrest and violence surrounding 2017's electoral saga has not matched that of 2007-8, the country is "only one for dedicated Africa or frontier investors right now," Mostaque said.