Kenya’s Vice President William Ruta is leading in a tight presidential race, according to official results reported by Kenyan media on Sunday, as more special forces were deployed at the national counting center following clashes and allegations of party agents.
The squabbles underscored exhaustion and high tensions in the nation’s counting room as the country awaits official results from last Tuesday’s election. Citizens took notice online about the melee, indicating that the rest of the nation was patiently waiting.
In the presidential race, official verified results reported by the Nation media group showed Ruto with 51% of the vote, beating leftist opposition leader Raila Odinga with 48%.
Media confusion over the vote count and the slow pace of progress by the electoral commission have raised alarm in Kenya, which is East Africa’s wealthiest and most stable country but has a history of violence following disputed elections.
Reuters was unable to access official vote counts in Sunday’s presidential race. A live feed showing the results at the national tally center had disappeared hours earlier.
Responding to a question about the count, the press secretary of the commission directed Reuters to the live broadcast. Other election officials said they were unable to provide information.
Official results on Saturday, with just over a quarter of the votes counted, put Odinga in the lead with 54% of the vote, while Ruto had 45%.
The winner must get 50% of the vote plus one. The commission has seven days from the moment of voting to announce the winners.
A Reuters count of 263 of 291 preliminary results at constituency level as of 6pm GMT on Sunday showed Ruta leading with just under 52% and Odinga on 47.5%. The two minor candidates shared less than a percent.
Reuters did not include 19 forms in the count because they were missing signatures, scores, were illegible or had other problems.
The preliminary count is based on the forms, which are subject to revision if any discrepancies are found during the official verification process.
The many checks and balances are designed to try to prevent allegations of tampering that sparked violence in 2007, when more than 1,200 people were killed, and in 2017, when more than 100 people were killed.
CHAOS IN THE CALCULATION HALL
Odinga and Ruta are vying to succeed two-term President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta fell out with Ruto after the last election and endorsed Odinga for the presidency.
Kenyatta is leaving power having saddled Kenya with debt from expensive infrastructure projects and failing to deal with endemic corruption that has permeated all levels of government. The next president will also take on the rapidly rising cost of food and fuel.
Ruto’s strong performance reflects widespread dissatisfaction with Kenyatta’s legacy – even in parts of the country where the president previously won elections.
A large number of Kenyans also did not vote, saying that neither candidate inspired them.
On Sunday, Ruta’s party member Johnson Sakaja won the governorship of the capital, Nairobi, the richest and most populous of the 47 counties.
TENSION IN THE COUNTER CENTER
As the tight race continued, party agents grew increasingly agitated at the counting center known as Bomas. Late on Saturday, Raila Odinga’s top agent Saitabao ole Kanchori grabbed the microphone and announced that “Kenya’s Bomas is a crime scene” before officials muted his microphone.
Party agents fought among themselves, with the police and with election officials, at one point trying to drag one official into the street.
The scenes, which were broadcast on national news, were met with bewilderment by Kenyans who called on their leaders to grow up.
“The reckless behavior of the so-called leaders in Bomas, which could quickly set the country on fire, must be exposed,” Alamin Kimati, a human rights activist, tweeted. “Let the drama end. Let the process continue.”