Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga is leading the presidential race, according to partial official results, as the country remained on tenterhooks for the final election outcome.
With just more than 26 percent of votes counted, Odinga had 54 percent and his main rival – Deputy President William Ruto – had 45 percent, the results provided by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) showed on Saturday.
The election, which was held on Tuesday, is being closely watched as a test of stability in Kenya, which is one of East Africa’s wealthiest nations and its most vibrant democracy.
Past votes in the country have been marred by rigging and deadly violence.
Odinga and Ruto are in a tight race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has reached his two-term limit. Kenyatta has endorsed Odinga after falling out with Ruto following the last election.
Official vote tallying has been proceeding slowly, heightening public anxiety.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati blamed party agents, who are allowed to scrutinise results forms before they are added to the final tally.
“Agents in this exercise cannot proceed … as if we are doing a forensic audit,” he told a news briefing on Friday.
“We are not moving as fast as we should. This exercise needs to be concluded as soon as possible.”
Both frontrunners have pledged to ensure calm after the outcome is known, with Kenyans still haunted by the deadly violence that followed the 2017 and 2007 polls.
More than 1,200 people were killed after the disputed 2007 elections and more than 100 were killed after the 2017 elections.
In a bid to be transparent, the election commission – which faced stinging criticism over its management of the annulled August 2017 polls – has been uploading documents to its website showing results from each polling station.
The Reuters news agency and other media outlets have been tallying result forms from 291 constituencies posted online.
As of 21:00 GMT on Saturday, Reuters had tallied 241 forms, which showed Ruto in the lead with nearly 52.3 percent of the vote, compared with Odinga’s 47 percent. Two other candidates had less than 1 percent between them.
Reuters said 30 forms could not be included in the count because they were unreadable or were missing information such as signatures, constituency names, or totals.
The forms Reuters tallied were preliminary and the results subject to change. After the forms are uploaded to the IEBC website, Kenyan election law requires that they are physically brought to the national tallying centre, where party representatives can examine them for any discrepancies.
The process was designed as a safeguard against the kind of rigging allegations that have triggered violence after previous polls.
The commission has until Tuesday to declare a winner.
The winning candidate must receive 50 percent of the national vote plus one, and at least 25 percent of the vote from 24 of 47 counties.
With the race so close, observers say an appeal to the Supreme Court by the losing candidate is almost certain, meaning it could be many weeks before a new president takes office.