NAIROBI: Kenyan authorities were racing to gather final election results on Wednesday after a partial count gave the lead to a politician who faces charges in The Hague for ethnic killings following the 2007 vote.
Counting since Monday’s voting has been slow and complicated by hitches in a new electronic system.
Politicians have complained about flaws in the process, stirring fears of a repeat of the troubles after the election five years ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 51, has kept an early lead since poll results started trickling in, but some strongholds for his rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 68, have yet to declare their results.
About 1,200 people were killed in weeks of tribal violence after the 2007 election, when outgoing president Mwai Kibaki was declared the victor over Odinga amid charges of voting fraud.
Kenyans are waiting to see if politicians will respect the vote results this time.
At least 15 people were killed in pockets of violence as voting took place on Monday, but so far there has been no repeat of the large-scale unrest.
But two days after the vote, the uncertainty was unsettling nerves.
“We are afraid because we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Charles Kabibi, 27, a gardener in the port city of Mombasa.
“It makes us nervous, and it’s just adding to the tension.” A dispute over a sizable number of rejected ballots could rein in Kenyatta’s early lead and raise the chances of an April run-off.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was manually tallying results from returning officers after the electronic system to transmit provisional figures failed.
It has seven days from the vote to declare the official outcome.
Despite technical glitches, European Union chief observer Alojz Peterle said the vote was credible and transparent so far.
But worries about the outcome are taking its toll.
Many shops and businesses have run down stocks for fear of a repeat of the looting after the previous election, which has pushed up food prices in some places.
“Life is becoming difficult and unbearable here,” said Milka Achieng, 42, a mother of five in 2007 flashpoint Kisumu, who now has to pay three times the normal price for cabbages.
“I plead with the IEBC to quickly announce the results so that life can continue.” Investors initially applauded the peaceful voting and the early signs of a clear winner by pushing the shilling to its strongest level against the dollar in 18 weeks.
But the delay has unsettled nerves and the shilling has given up gains.
Provisional results displayed by the election commission on Wednesday with about 60 per cent of polling stations still to report showed Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s independence leader and one of Africa’s richest men, on 53 per cent, against 42 per cent for veteran politician Odinga.
But the numbers ignore more than 330,000 rejected votes that have been counted so far.
The election commission says they will now be included in a final calculation.
Once factored in, that would sharply erode Kenyatta’s chances of securing the more than 50 per cent needed in the first round for an outright win.
“We want to believe that this is not an attempt to deny the Jubilee Coalition a first-round victory as is clearly now on the wall,” Ruto told reporters, referring to a results screen.
“We urge every Kenyan to be calm and very patient and await the official release of these results by the commission.”