NAIROBI, Kenya ( Associated Press) – Kenyans await the results of a close but quiet presidential election In which the voter turnout was less than normal.
Tuesday’s election was perhaps the last attempt by longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was backed by former rival and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in his fifth attempt. The other top contender is Vice President William Ruto, who fell out with the first president of his decade in power.
Voters have expressed little hope for real change and despair with rising prices and widespread corruption In the economic center of East Africa. Both top candidates have long been known to Kenyans, Odinga as a democracy campaigner and former political prisoner and Ruto as a wealthy populist who plays his humble youth in contrast to the dynasties that produced Odinga and Kenyatta.
Odinga’s support of the president cut common ethnic lines that have long defined elections and contributed to violence. This time there is no candidate from Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, although both top candidates chose Kikuyu’s running mate.
Official election results should be announced within a week of the vote, but there is some speculation that a winner may be known on Wednesday. The Election Commission will still have to verify the result forms coming in from across the country. Over 97% of the results from over 46,000 polling stations were sent to the commission before Wednesday afternoon.
Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua tweeted, “It’s not done until it’s done, as the other candidates were publicly silent.
A run-off election shall be held if no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes.
The commission said on Wednesday that the turnout was at least 65%, much lower than the 80% in the last election in 2017. More than 22 million people had registered to vote, but some told the Associated Press they doubted they would be financially troubled. Challenges including high national debt and widespread unemployment.
A relatively uneven election may be welcomed. On the eve of the vote, Kenya’s government reminded people that “it will be a contest, not a fight. There must be a winner and a loser in a contest. Fights can sometimes cost lives.”
Kenyans say elections are quiet and troubles come later. More than 1,000 people were killed after the 2007 election results were announced and Odinga accused it of rampant rigging. In 2017, the High Court overturned the election results for the first time in Africa, following alleged irregularities by Odinga. He boycotted the new election and declared himself “President of the People”, having been charged with treason.
A handshake with Kenyatta quelled that crisis, establishing their unusual alliance and angering Ruto, who still accuses the president of betrayal.
Both Odinga and Ruto have said they will accept the results as long as the voting remains free and fair.
Already, the reported troubles include the failure of nearly 200 voting kits out of more than 46,000 across the country. The EC called it “not widespread” and sometimes breaking down for “normal” technology. But some local reports cited people saying they were unable to vote when the kit did not recognize them and that polling workers would not use the paper voter register as a backup, which was allowed.
Such disappointment came even after Kenya budgeted more than $347 million, or $15 per voter, for one of Africa’s most expensive elections.
Kenyans have a week from the announcement of the official results to file any court challenge. The court has two weeks to decide. Fresh elections will be held within 60 days.