Kenyans nervously eyed results trickling in yesterday from the presidential election, the first since disputed polls five years ago triggered a wave of bloodletting, with joint Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta taking an early lead.
Kenyatta, who faces a trial for crimes against humanity over the violence that killed more than 1,100 people and forced more than 600,000 to flee their homes, edged ahead in partial results over rival candidate and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of victory in 2007.
Millions of Kenyans turned out peacefully on Monday for the elections, seen as key to stability in the regional powerhouse.
Voters stood for hours in snaking lines hundreds of meters long and several people thick outside polling stations to take part in one of Kenya’s most complex elections ever.
Partial results from about 37 percent of the almost 32,000 polling stations — with more than 4.4 million valid ballots counted from the 14.3 million registered voters — had been sent to the central tallying center in Nairobi, the capital.
Of those counted as of 12:15pm yesterday, Kenyatta had won almost 2.43 million, or 54 percent, of valid votes cast and Odinga had won 1.82 million, or 40 percent. However, the majority of votes are yet to be tallied and Kenyatta’s lead could be easily overturned.
However, more than 277,000 rejected ballots made up a staggering 5 percent of votes cast.
“This election is a turning point, and its outcome will determine whether the country will proceed as a civilized state,” the Daily Nation newspaper said, adding that all Kenyans must “be ready to accept the election results.”
Hours before polling stations opened, bloody clashes erupted on the Indian Ocean coast in which six policemen and six attackers were killed, as several bombs went off in Mandera, on the border with Somalia, wounding one person in.
Kenyan Police Chief David Kimaiyo blamed the coastal attacks on suspected members of the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council and said that 400 officers had been sent to beef up security in the popular tourist region.
There were also complaints across the country at the widespread failure of electronic biometric voting registration kits introduced to frustrate potential rigging. The failure meant stations used paper records and manual registration.
Ahmed Issack Hassan, the head of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, told reporters the body was investigating complaints of voting irregularities from political parties.
“I want to assure the candidates and political parties, please don’t jump to conclusions: Your job is to contest the election, our job is to org anise them,” Hassan said, adding that he did not expect full preliminary presidential results until today at the earliest.
In the western town of Kisumu — the heartland of Odinga and scene of the 2007 clashes — grim-faced people watched the partial results being broadcast on television.
“There is a lot of tension, people are not happy with how things are going,” said Nicholas Ochieng, 24.
In Mombasa, court clerk Ken Malenya drank strong coffee after staying up all night. “I didn’t sleep, I want to know who our president will be, I have to know,” he said.
To win, a candidate must take more than 50 percent of votes, as well as winning at least 25 percent of votes in more than half of all counties to avoid a second-round runoff, due within a month after final results.