Thu, Mar 07, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Kenyatta leads Kenyan polls as tallying delayed

TENSE WAIT:Kenyans were growing impatient as the counting of votes slowed further yesterday, but human rights court indictee Uhuru Kenyatta still had the lead


People in the Kibera slum of Nairobi watch the news as provisional results of Kenya’s general election are revealed.

Photo: EPA

Joint Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is accused of crimes against humanity, led Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a presidential vote yesterday.

Kenyatta had 53 percent of the vote with ballots from more than two-fifths of polling stations tallied, while Odinga had 42 percent, provisional data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission showed. However, those figures had not been updated in at least eight hours after real-time transmission of results broke down and the commission began announcing hand-delivered returns verbally.

The election is the first since fraud allegations by Odinga’s party after a December 2007 vote spawned two months of violence that killed 1,100 people and left 350,000 homeless.

Kenyatta, the 51-year-old son of the first Kenyan president, Jomo Kenyatta, is facing trial at the International Criminal Court for orchestrating violence during the last elections. He is running with one-time political rival William Ruto, a former Cabinet minister who has also been indicted by The Hague-based court. Both deny the charges.

Odinga, 68, lost in 1997 and 2007, when he accused outgoing Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote. It sparked attacks against members and allies of Kibaki’s Kikuyu community and led to retaliation against Odinga’s Luo supporters.

At least 14 people were killed, including eight police officers, in attacks in Coast Province before polls opened on Monday that authorities blamed on a separatist group.

Still, African Union chief observer Joaquim Chissano said the vote was “credible and transparent.”

Many polling stations extended voting hours to cope with a turnout of more than 70 percent among 14.3 million registered voters. A change in the election system, which meant voters had to cast six ballot papers in separate boxes, is among factors that led to a “large number” of spoiled votes, commision chairman Issack Hassan said on Tuesday.

The commission rejected a total of 341,140 ballots, while it has counted 5.35 million valid votes, according to provisional results announced so far.

Odinga’s Coalition for Reform and Democracy wants the spoiled ballots counted as votes cast, Chairman Franklin Bett told reporters yesterday. That may mean Kenyatta is unable to secure more than 50 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff, Bett said. Rejected votes have so far been excluded from provisional tallies.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Coalition criticized what it described as an effort by the UK to canvass for the inclusion of rejected ballots, an e-mailed statement yesterday said.

Claims that the UK has a position on the status of rejected ballots are “unhelpful and wrong,” British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner said.

Kenyatta had 39,698 votes, while Odinga received 38,679 votes from the diaspora and two constituencies as of press time yesterday.

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