Kenya Votes In Tight Poll
Kenyans are voting on Tuesday in general elections, with a tight, bad-tempered race between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his longtime rival Raila Odinga sparking fears of violence.
Polls opened with varying delays after the official start at 6am (0300 GMT) in strongholds of both candidates around the country, according to AFP reporters.
A 15 minute delay led to shouts of anger in Nairobi’s largest slum Kibera, an opposition stronghold, where thousands waited outside a primary school to cast their ballots, many draped in a red Maasai blanket to ward off the chilly morning air.
However voting soon got underway.
Election officials say the winner of Kenya’s presidential race must get more than 50 percent of the votes as well as one-quarter or more votes in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties. If the front-runner falls short of those benchmarks, the two top contenders will contest a run-off vote.
Kenyans will vote in six different elections, choosing governors, lawmakers, senators, county officials and women’s representatives in local races also rife with tension.
Security is tight at the polling station and around the city, with at least 150,000 officers deployed. Odinga has warned this may intimidate voters.
On the eve of the vote US President Barack Obama led international calls for peace in the country seen as a bastion of stability in east Africa, and a key partner in the fight against the Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab group in Somalia.
“I urge Kenyan leaders to reject violence and incitement; respect the will of the people,” Obama said in a statement.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga also faced off in the 2013 election. Kenyatta won by a thin margin, with just over 50 percent of the vote; Odinga alleged vote-tampering and took his case to Kenya’s highest court, which ruled in Kenyatta’s favor by validating the results.
Reaction to the result could partly depend on the performance of Kenya’s electoral commission, which will collect vote counts from more than 40,000 polling stations. Kenya has nearly 20 million registered voters.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is among thousands of observers who are monitoring the election.