KENYA POLLS: Uhuru maintains lead in tense Kenya vote count
Posted Wednesday, March 6 2013 at 09:38
Kenya deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces an international crimes against humanity trial, maintained his initial lead in presidential elections Tuesday, the first since disputed polls five years ago sparked a wave of violence.
Kenyatta edged ahead in partial results over rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of victory in 2007 when disputed results triggered bloody ethnic violence in which more than 1,100 people were killed and 600,000 were forced to flee their homes.
While millions of Kenyans turned out peacefully on Monday for the elections, how they react to the final results will be key to stability in the regional powerhouse.
Just over 40 percent of the almost 32,000 polling stations had sent in partial results by late Tuesday evening, with so far some five million valid votes counted from the 14.3 million registered voters.
Of those counted at 10:30 pm (1930 GMT), Kenyatta had won just over 2.7 million or 53 percent of valid votes cast against Odinga with 2.19 million or 42 percent, a gap that could still be easily overturned.
But a staggering 332,000 ballots were rejected, making up more than five percent of votes cast and totalling more than the third candidate in the race, deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi, who has less than three percent of votes so far.
None of the other five candidates had taken more than one percent. Votes coming in to be tallied all but dried up between 7:00 pm and 10:30 pm, with electoral officials citing technical hitches.
"This election is a turning point, and its outcome will determine whether the country will proceed as a civilised state," the Daily Nation newspaper said, adding that all Kenyans must "be ready to accept the election results."
Hours before polling stations opened, at least six policemen and six attackers -- said to be a separatist group -- were killed in clashes on the Indian Ocean coast, while one person was wounded after several bombs exploded in Mandera, on the northeastern border with war-torn Somalia.
On Tuesday evening one person was wounded in a blast in the Somali district of Nairobi as local residents were watching the tallying on TV.
There were complaints at the widespread failure of electronic biometric voting registration (BVR) kits introduced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to frustrate potential rigging.
The BVR failure meant stations used paper records and manual registration.
Questions at slow pace of tally
Both sides expressed concern over logistical difficulties. Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenyan vice-president and Odinga's running mate, told reporters they were worried at the "failure of the IEBC electronic registers as well as the huge numbers of spoilt votes", but urged supporters to remain calm.
Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto's Jubilee Coalition for its part called on the IEBC to "urgently remedy the technical issues that are affecting the tally of votes", saying it was especially concerned at the slow progress in collecting votes in Nairobi and the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, but was also aware of problems across the country.
Kenyatta's coalition also expressed its "surprise" at suggestions it said had been made by Odinga's party to include spoiled ballots as part of the valid votes cast.