Kenya polls: Kenyatta maintains lead

2013-03-07 10:42
Kenyan presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta gestures to queuing voters after casting his vote, at the Mutomo primary school near Gatundu, north of Nairobi, Kenya. (AP)

Kenyan presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta gestures to queuing voters after casting his vote, at the Mutomo primary school near Gatundu, north of Nairobi, Kenya. (AP)

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Nairobi - Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta maintained a clear lead on Thursday as votes continue to be counted in the critical presidential election, with almost half of estimated ballots cast so far tallied.

Kenyatta's party on Wednesday criticised the inclusion of spoiled ballots in the tally after Monday's elections, the first since 2007 when a dispute over the counting process erupted into weeks of deadly violence that left more than 1 100 dead.

Both Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity over the 2007-8 unrest.

As of 07:00 GMT, more than 60 hours since polls closed, Kenyatta had at least 53% of valid votes compared to 42% for his closest rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to official results relayed by Kenyan media.

Leaders and officials have urged calm after hitches led an electronic tallying system to stall, forcing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to read out results delivered in person by returning officers.

Partial results from almost 4.5 million votes - from a total of 14.3 million registered voters - showed that Kenyatta had taken more than 2.4 million against almost 1.9 million for Odinga.

But Kenyatta's party has objected to the inclusion of mountains of spoiled ballots reported during the initial electronic count, saying their use in overall totals was motivated by a "sinister and suspect" logic.

Key controversy

With the gap between the frontrunners small enough to be overturned, the inclusion of spoiled ballots - more than 5% of votes cast so far, according to the electronic count - has become a key controversy.

The inclusion of so many rejected ballots greatly adds to the number of votes needed for a candidate to break the 50% threshold for a first round win, raising the prospect of a runoff due within a month.

"The Jubilee Coalition is scandalised that sensible Kenyans can so much as think of including condemned ballots," an official from Kenyatta's coalition, Charity Ngilu, told reporters on Wednesday.

To win outright and avoid a second round, a candidate must win more than half of all votes cast, according to the constitution, as well as at least 25% of votes in more than half of all 47 counties.

IEBC chairperson Ahmed Issack Hassan has said official results are expected on Friday, although legally the commission has until Monday to deliver the tallies.

Helicopters and chartered planes have been sent to ferry election officials from far-flung counties to Nairobi to deliver results, with others coming by road.

- SAPA
Read more on:    international criminal court  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  william ruto  |  raila odinga  |  kenya  |  east africa
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