Kenyans vote in high-stakes elec­tions

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

NAIROBI: Kenyans thronged polling sta­tions yes­ter­day to vote in elec­tions dom­i­nated by a tight pres­i­den­tial bat­tle be­tween in­cum­bent Uhuru Keny­atta and his ri­val Raila Odinga that has raised fears of vi­o­lence in east Africa’s most vibrant democ­racy. Peo­ple stood pa­tiently for hours in snaking queues around the coun­try for a vote that went off peace­fully, de­spite re­ports of some tech­ni­cal glitches and de­lays, af­ter weeks of ten­sions over op­po­si­tion claims of a plot to rig the out­come.

Polls closed at 5pm (1400 GMT), how­ever those in line would be per­mit­ted to vote and polling sta­tions which had suf­fered de­lays would stay open longer, the elec­tion com­mis­sion said. All eyes will now turn to the crunch tal­ly­ing process, the most sen­si­tive part of the elec­tion in a coun­try prone to post-poll vi­o­lence.

Keny­atta, who is seek­ing a sec­ond term in of­fice, urged Odinga to ac­cept the re­sult should he lose.

“I also want to say that if I lose, I will ac­cept the will of the peo­ple,” Keny­atta said af­ter vot­ing. Odinga, 72, is tak­ing his fourth and likely fi­nal stab at the pres­i­dency. He claims elec­tions in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him. “In the un­likely event that I lose I don’t need a speech, I will just speak from my heart,” Odinga said shortly be­fore vot­ing.

Yes­ter­day’s elec­tions took place a decade af­ter a sham­bolic 2007 vote-which for­eign ob­servers agreed was rid­dled with ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties-sparked vi­o­lence which left more than 1,100 peo­ple dead and 600,000 dis­placed. This year’s cam­paign was marred by the bru­tal mur­der and tor­ture of a top elec­tion of­fi­cial in charge of the cru­cial elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem.

The IEBC elec­toral com­mis­sion moved quickly to deal with com­plaints, re­mov­ing clerks in a polling sta­tion where bal­lot pa­pers were pre-marked as “re­jected”. In the port city of Mom­basa a clerk was ar­rested for is­su­ing dou­ble bal­lot pa­pers to cer­tain vot­ers, lo­cal po­lice said. IEBC chief Wa­fula Che­bukati said vot­ing had gone “smoothly” de­spite mi­nor de­lays and tech­ni­cal hic­cups at some of the 41,000 polling sta­tions. In semi-arid north­west Turkana heavy rains saw flood­ing cut roads off, and sev­eral polling sta­tions had still not opened by clos­ing time. Odinga’s Na­tional Su­per Al­liance op­po­si­tion coali­tion (NASA) re­leased a state­ment prais­ing poll of­fi­cials and se­cu­rity forces. “We com­mend them for the good job so far and urge them to keep it up,” it said.

How­ever the coali­tion com­plained some of its vot­ers had been turned away or their names were miss­ing from the vot­ers reg­is­ter.

NASA also said it had re­ports of “pre-marked bal­lot pa­pers” and at­tempts to bribe vot­ers. As vote tal­ly­ing starts, the fo­cus is on the elec­tronic sys­tem in place to send re­sults to Nairobi. The fail­ure of this sys­tem in 2013 meant votes had to be counted man­u­ally, lead­ing Odinga to cry foul. — AFP

NAIROBI: A Kenyan woman car­ries her baby on her back as she casts her vote in Gatundu, north of Nairobi yes­ter­day. — AP

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