Sat, Mar 09, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Kenyatta holds slim lead in Kenyan presidential vote

AFP, NAIROBI

Children of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, chant messages of peace as they wrap up a peace walk to promote peaceful elections organized by a local artist group called Maasai Mbili in the slum on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

The Kenyan presidential frontrunner, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, held the lead as the vote count in Kenya’s election entered the final, nail-biting stretch yesterday and he battled to avoid a second round in the critical race.

With just over a quarter of constituencies still to report results, Kenyatta was hovering at about the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff and maintained a clear lead over his archrival, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Kenyatta, one of Africa’s richest men, faces a crimes against humanity trial at the International Criminal Court over the deadly violence that erupted after the contested 2007 elections.

The tallying process — that entered its fourth day yesterday — has been marred by allegations from both sides, including charges by Odinga’s party that results had been “doctored.”

Kenyatta’s party has also raised concerns over the slow-moving vote count, complaining that the inclusion of spoiled ballots in the overall total could potentially tip the balance in favor of a second round.

The rigging claims, dismissed by Kenya’s electoral commission, have added to tensions in a nation still scarred by the weeks of deadly violence following contested polls five years ago.

More than 1,100 people were killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes in the 2007-2008 bloody ethnic violence that shattered Kenya’s image as a beacon of regional stability.

As of 5:45am GMT, Kenyatta had won 4.7 million votes compared to his rival Odinga’s 4.1 million, with as many as three-quarters of Kenya’s 14.3 million registered voters estimated to have cast a ballot.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) legally has until Monday to announce the outcome of the closely fought race.

Odinga and Kenyatta — the son of independent Kenya’s founding president — have both publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the 2007-2008 bloodshed that broke out over the counting process.

Kenya has been largely calm in recent days, apart from isolated incidents of violence.

Odinga also ran for president last time and has always insisted he was robbed of victory in 2007, which went to his main rival, Mwai Kibaki, who was backed by Kenyatta.

The vote-tallying process has repeatedly come under fire after an expensive electronic system to register and recognize voters — and later to send results — suffered widespread failure.

After tallying had begun, election officials were forced to resort to reading out results hand-delivered by returning officers, with chartered airplanes and helicopters sent to pick up officials from remote regions.

Initial results sent electronically showed that spoiled ballots made up more than 5 percent of votes cast, but the numbers dropped from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands after the electronic system was abandoned.

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