Early Signs show tight Presidential Race in Kenyan

Preliminary results from Kenyan’s presidential election show a tight race between the two main candidates contesting to replace President Uhuru Kenyatta, as citizens pray that the announcement of a winner would not unleash violence as experienced in previous elections.

Tuesday’s presidential election is an important test of stability in East Africa’s biggest economy, where two of the last three elections were marred with bloodshed and disputes over accusations of rigging.

What is the outcome of the poll so far?

Although the election was reported to be peaceful, Kenyan police say they are pursuing a legislator who shot dead a rival’s aide outside a polling station, in the northern town of Eldas, where clashes prevented elections on Tuesday but the polling station opened peacefully on Wednesday, election officials said.

The presidential frontrunners, Deputy President William Ruto and Veteran opposition leader, Raila Odinga, are in a close race, according to results tabulated by the Kenyan media. The winning candidate must poll 50% plus one vote.

What are the Media Tallies?

The election commission, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC, posted images showing result forms for more than 99% of the 46,663 polling stations.  The commission only posted pictures, not numbers. Only seven out of 290 constituency-level results are available on the commission’s website. The constituency result forms have to be tallied at the site and then physically taken to the national tallying center in the capital, Nairobi, and verified before the commission issues official results.

The cumbersome tallying process is partly the result of a Supreme Court ruling in 2017 that overturned the initial re-election of Kenyatta in August that year, citing the commission’s failure to follow the process to the letter. It has made for a confusing tallying process as the media issue contradictory numbers.

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As of Wednesday evening, privately-owned Citizen Television showed Odinga leading with 51.3% of the vote and Ruto at 47.3%. in contrast, the privately owned Nation group had Ruto leading by 50.7% to Odinga’s 48.6%.

Neither had tallied more than half the vote cast, and it is unclear if they are counting the same portion of the vote since the results forms were uploaded at random, as academics following the media’s tally said they had some errors, cautioning that their results were not official. The final result from IEBC is expected in days, although legally, it may take up to a week.

How was the voter turnout?

Voter turnout for the election was low compared to the previous election. The commission said 65% of the 22.1 million registered voters cast ballots, as against nearly 80% recorded in the last election in 2017. Millions of Kenyans also chose not to register to vote; the commission had hoped to sign up six million but got less than half of that.

Several factors were blamed for the low turnout including drought in the north, which has forced more than 4 million Kenyans to depend on food aid, and also, voter frustration with the government’s failure to tackle economic problems such as rising food and fuel prices.