Kenyans vote for pres­i­dent in tight poll

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NAIROBI — About 20 mil­lion Kenyans on Tues­day voted in an elec­tion that pits Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta against chal­lenger Raila Odinga in this East African eco­nomic hub known for its rel­a­tive and long-term sta­bil­ity.

Vot­ers formed long lines at many polling sta­tions be­fore dawn, wait­ing for the chance to cast bal­lots in the tightly con­tested race for the pres­i­dency as well as for more than 1,800 elected po­si­tions, in­clud­ing gover­nors, leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives and county of­fi­cials.

A key con­cern was whether Kenya would echo its 2013 elec­tion, a mostly peace­ful af­fair de­spite op­po­si­tion al­le­ga­tions of vote-tam­per­ing, or the 2007 elec­tion, which led to vi­o­lence fu­eled by eth­nic di­vi­sions that killed more than 1,000 peo­ple.

Se­cu­rity was tight at the polling sta­tion and around the city, with at least 150,000 of­fi­cers de­ployed.

Keny­atta, the 55-year-old son of Kenya’s first pres­i­dent af­ter in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colo­nial rule, cam­paigned on a record of ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects and claimed strong eco­nomic growth. Odinga, 72, is also the son of a leader of the in­de­pen­dence strug­gle and has cast him­self as a champi- on of the poor and a harsh critic of en­demic cor­rup­tion in many state in­sti­tu­tions.

How­ever, many vot­ers are ex­pected to vote along eth­nic lines. Keny­atta is widely seen as the can­di­date of the Kikuyu peo­ple, the coun­try’s largest eth­nic group. Odinga is as­so­ci­ated with the Luo vot­ing bloc, which has never pro­duced a head of state.

More than 300 peo­ple, in­clud­ing eth­nic Maa­sai draped in tra­di­tional red blan­kets, waited for hours in the dark be­fore polling sta­tions opened in the Rift Val­ley town of Il Bis­sil. Kenyan tele­vi­sion also showed long lines of vot­ers in the port city of Mom­basa.

“This is a pos­i­tive feed­back for us,” polling of­fi­cial James Njaya said of the high turnout in Kib­era, a poor area in Nairobi, the Kenyan cap­i­tal.

Like many Kenyan vot­ers, 34-year-old Fred Nyakundi ar­rived at a polling sta­tion sev­eral hours be­fore it opened and waited in line in the dark be­fore cast­ing his vote.

“The ex­er­cise is very slow, but I am happy with the ser­vice I got,” said Nyakundi, who owns a car­pen­try busi­ness in Nairobi. “I am go­ing home to open the busi­ness and wait for re­sults.”

LUIS TATO / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A woman casts her bal­lot in the gen­eral elec­tions at a polling sta­tion in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tues­day.

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