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Kenya vote commission cites Bush v. Gore in defense

NAIROBI — A lawyer for Kenya’s election commission cited the US Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore during arguments before a Kenya Supreme Court that must rule on the outcome of this East African country’s presidential election.

On Thursday, Ahmednasir Abdullahi told Kenya’s highest court it should exercise judicial restraint and uphold the March 4 result from Kenya’s election commission showing that Uhuru Kenyatta won with 50.07 percent of the March 4 vote.

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the runner-up with 43 percent, is seeking a new election because, he says, it wasn’t free and fair. The court is expected to rule by Saturday.

Abdullahi quoted US Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote after hearing the 2000 case that decided that US presidential election, that the appearance of a split court on a highly politicized case risks undermining public confidence in the court.

Kenya’s high court was reformed after a disastrous 2007 presidential vote sparked weeks of tribal violence that killed more than 1,000 people. The newfound trust Kenyans have in it is frequently cited as one of the reasons Kenya’s contentious election this year has not yet sparked any violence.

Abdullahi reminded the court that it is only two years old, and he told them: ‘‘You must show restraint.’’

Justice Smokin Wanjala did not appear to appreciate the advice. ‘‘It is not this court on trial,’’ Wanjala told Abdullahi. ‘‘Argue your client’s case.’’

Lawyers for Odinga argued Kenyatta’s win should be invalidated because of anomalies in voter registrations, transmission of vote totals, and manipulations in the tallying of votes.

Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court that he helped orchestrate the 2007-08 postelection violence.

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