Odinga files suit to challenge defeat

Police in Kenya lobbed tear gas Saturday at crowds supporting the prime minister as he filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to void the presidential election, a vote that he says was neither free nor fair.

Raila Odinga’s court filing comes a week after Kenya’s election commission declared Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, the winner of the March 4 vote. Kenyatta won by a hair, with 50.07 percent of the vote, while Odinga came in second in the eight-candidate field with 43 percent.

The election and its aftermath have been largely peaceful, unlike the disputed 2007 vote, which sparked two months of violence that killed more than 1,000 people. Odinga has urged his supporters to remain calm and has said he will respect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Also Saturday, civil society groups filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that the election results be nullified on the basis that the election process was irrevocably flawed. The groups, working under the name Kenya for Peace, Truth and Justice, said the commission has not offered a credible explanation for the election’s technical failures.

— Associated Press

Vote held on curbs to president’s power

Zimbabweans voted Saturday in a referendum expected to endorse a new constitution that would trim presidential powers and pave the way for an election to decide whether Robert Mugabe extends his three-
decade rule.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president at 89, has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980 and has been accused of waging violent crackdowns on the opposition and weakening state institutions.

The new constitution would set a maximum of two five-year terms for the president, starting with the next election, expected in the second half of this year. But the limit will not apply retroactively, so Mugabe could rule for two more terms.

Presidential decrees also will require majority backing in the cabinet, and declarations of emergency rule or dissolutions of parliament will need the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the rival Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are backing the charter, making Saturday’s vote almost a rubber-stamp exercise.

— Reuters

Pakistani government ends historic 5-year term: Pakistan’s government passed a milestone Saturday, with the Parliament becoming the first democratically chosen body to finish its five-year term in a country that has faced three military coups and persistent political turmoil. Underscoring divisions, however, politicians failed to reach agreement on a caretaker government in time for the final session of Parliament before elections are held. The country’s constitution calls for a vote within 60 days, but no date has been set.

Egypt sends 7 Palestinians back to Gaza: Egyptian authorities deported seven Palestinians to the Gaza Strip after they were detained for security reasons upon arrival at Cairo airport, the state news agency said, in the latest signal of growing tensions between Egypt and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The group was arrested in the same week that a state-owned Egyptian magazine published a report accusing Hamas of orchestrating one of the bloodiest attacks on the Egyptian army in decades — the killing of 16 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula in August.

— From news services