Nairobi - Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces an international trial
for crimes against humanity, held a steady lead as votes were tallied on Wednesday
from Kenya's presidential election, the first since bloody violence five years
ago after disputed polls.
Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, kept his lead in the
partial results over rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the second day of
vote counting and more than 36 hours since polls closed late on Monday.
Odinga 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% of the almost 32 000 polling stations had sent
in partial results by Wednesday morning, with so far just over five million
valid votes counted from the 14.3 million registered voters.
Of those counted at 08:15 on Wednesday, Kenyatta had won
just over 2.79 million or 53% of valid votes cast against Odinga with 2.20
million or 42%, a gap that could still be easily overturned.
But a staggering 334 000 ballots were rejected, making up
some five percent of votes cast and totalling more than those so far assigned
to the third candidate in the race, deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi, who
has two percent of votes so far.
None of the other five candidates had secured more than one
percent of the votes counted.
There have already been multiple 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
The votes coming in to be tallied all but dried up
overnight, with electoral officials citing technical hitches in sending results
Many returning officers were due to travel by road Wednesday
to deliver them by hand.
Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition late Tuesday called on the
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to "urgently remedy
the technical issues" affecting the vote count, saying it was concerned at
the slow progress.
Controversy over spoiled ballots
To win outright and avoid a second round runoff, a candidate
must win "more than half of all the votes cast", according to the
constitution, as well as winning at least 25% of votes in more than half of all
Kenyatta's party expressed its "surprise" at
suggestions it said had been made by Odinga's party to include spoiled ballots
in the vote count.
If these spoiled ballots were included, it would greatly add
to the numbers needed for a candidate to overcome the 50% barrier for a first
round win, raising the prospect of another round due within a month after the
But the Jubilee Coalition of Kenyatta and running mate
William Ruto - who also faces trial later this year at the International
Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity - said there was "no
precedent" for including invalid votes.
Both sides expressed concern over the logistical
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.
IEBC chairperson Ahmed Issack Hassan said the body was
investigating complaints of voting irregularities from political parties, and
admitted the large number of spoilt ballots was a "concern".
"I want to assure the candidates and political parties,
please don't jump to conclusions: your job is to contest the election, our job
is to organise them," Hassan said.
Hours before polling stations opened on Monday, at least six
policemen and six assailants - said to be members of 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 north-eastern border with war-torn
On Tuesday, one person was wounded in a blast in a largely
ethnic Somali district of Nairobi as local residents watched the vote count on
television, the latest in a string of attacks there in recent months.
The results of the 2007 poll, which President Mwai Kibaki
won against Odinga, sparked a wave of protests, notably over the lack of
transparency in the way the votes were counted.
Odinga and his rival Kenyatta - the son of independent
Kenya's founding president as well as one of Africa's richest and most powerful
men - have publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the 2007-08 bloodshed.
But the trials later this year at The Hague-based ICC for
Kenyatta and Ruto have raised the stakes: should they win the vote, the
president and vice-president could be absent for years.