Count be­gins in Kenya’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

In­cum­bent Uhuru Keny­atta fac­ing chal­lenger.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Christo­pher Torchia

Polls closed across Kenya af­ter mil­lions voted peace­fully Tues­day in a fiercely con­tested elec­tion pit­ting Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta against chal­lenger Raila Odinga in the East African coun­try known for its sta­bil­ity but also its di­vided eth­nic al­le­giances.

Long lines formed at many of Kenya’s 40,000 polling sta­tions be­fore dawn, but the Kenyan elec­tion com­mis­sion tweeted in the evening that the bal­lot­ing con­cluded “with min­i­mal hitches.” Some sites re­mained open to process those peo­ple still wait­ing to cast their votes.

In pre­lim­i­nary re­sults, Keny­atta was ahead with 55.4 per­cent while Odinga had 43.9 per­cent af­ter votes from nearly one-quar­ter of 40,883 polling sta­tions had been counted, ac­cord­ing to the Kenyan elec­tion com­mis­sion.

Au­thor­i­ties hope to avoid the post-elec­tion vi­o­lence a decade ago when eth­nic di­vi­sions fu­eled un­rest that killed more than 1,000 peo­ple.

Re­ac­tion to the re­sult could partly de­pend on the per­for­mance of Kenya’s elec­toral com­mis­sion, which will col­lect and count the bal­lots in the com­ing days.

By law, elec­tion of­fi­cials have up to a week to an­nounce re­sults, though many an­a­lysts be­lieve the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial race will be de­clared far sooner, pos­si­bly within one or two days.

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, who is the chief elec­tion ob­server for The Carter Cen­ter, de­scribed it as “an in­spir­ing day in Kenya watch­ing democ­racy in ac­tion.”

“En­thu­si­as­tic vot­ers not fazed by long lines,” he tweeted.

More than 300 peo­ple, in­clud­ing eth­nic Maa­sai draped in tra­di­tional red blan­kets, waited for hours in the dark be­fore a polling sta­tion opened in the Rift Val­ley town of Il Bis­sil. Kenyan TV also showed lines of vot­ers in the port city of Mom­basa. In some lo­ca­tions, in­mates in striped prison garb cast bal­lots un­der the watch of guards.

Be­cause Kenya is an African leader, its elec­tion is a closely watched event across the con­ti­nent and be­yond. Its di­ver­sity, sym­bol­ized by the gulf be­tween its so-called Sil­i­con Sa­van­nah am­bi­tions for a boom­ing tech in­dus­try and the poverty and lack of ser­vices found in shan­ty­towns or re­mote ru­ral ar­eas, as well as its com­plex eth­nic patch­work, mir­ror the po­ten­tial for ad­vance­ment, and the ob­sta­cles to it, across the wider re­gion.

“If the elec­tions are not fair, if there was rig­ging, peo­ple will def­i­nitely go to the streets,” said Sophia Ajwang, a 29-year-old stu­dent in Kisumu city.

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, many backed by China, and claimed strong eco­nomic growth. Odinga, 72, also the son of a leader of the in­de­pen­dence strug­gle, has cast him­self as a cham­pion of the poor and a harsh critic of en­demic cor­rup­tion.


An elec­toral of­fi­cer (cen­ter) checks votes in Kib­era Nairobi, Kenya, on Tues­day. Kenyans went to the polls to vote in a gen­eral elec­tion af­ter a tightly fought pres­i­den­tial race be­tween in­cum­bent Uhuru Keny­atta and main op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga.

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