from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – AFTER eagerly-anticipated elections, characterised by gunfire, blunders, delayed opening of some polling stations and postponements, Kenyans eagerly await the outcome.
Millions in East Africa’s largest economy went to polls on Tuesday in what was tipped to be the most tightly-contested electoral exercise since the advent of multiparty politics in 1991, some 28 years after independence from Britain.
Kenya gained its independence from Britain in 1963.
The result of the presidential poll is expected in less than a week, legally.
Polls lived up to their billing as a two-horse race between seasoned opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, and deputy president, William Ruto.
Kenyans defied the wintry conditions to make their mark at 46 229 polling stations around the country of an estimated 56 million people.
Polling opened at 6am in the country as well as for the Diaspora community.
In the Diaspora, elections were conducted in Burundi, Canada, Germany, Qatar, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).
“We appreciate that Kenyans woke up early in the morning, braving the chilly weather to queue at the various polling stations hours before they were opened,” Wafula Chebukati, Chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), stated.
However, Election Day got off to a worst possible start as gunmen stormed the Eldas Constituency Election Office in Wajir County in the northeast.
Electoral officials remained trapped inside during the gunfight.
Material not transported to polling stations. Polls were set to resume as soon as material were transported and the security situation improved.
Wajir, bordering Somalia, is among areas bedeviled by the al-Shabbab terror group.
In Turkana Central, a presiding officer and two clerks were injured in road accident.
They were released from hospital but the election went ahead after replacements were deployed.
Several Governorship, National Assembly and County Assembly polls were deferred because of court orders and mismatch of material.
The latter culminated in wrong pictures of candidates and incorrect details printed on ballot papers.
The gubernatorial polls in Kakamega and Mombasa were affected.
National Assembly polls in Kitui Rural, Kacheliba, Pokot South and Rongai Constituencies as well as County Assembly elections in Nyaki West and Kwa Njenga were postponed.
Affected polls have been rescheduled for August 23.
At noon, 6 567 869 Kenyans had cast their ballots. That equaled 30,65 percent of the 22 120 458 registered voters.
At around 4pm, some 12 065 803 had voted, equating to 56,17 percent of the total voters.
Kenya has a history of high voter turnout.
The last poll in 2017 had a voter turnout of 79,5 percent.
Election trackers on Tuesday night depicted the lead changing hands between Odinga and Ruto, with a massive gap ahead of David Waihiga Mwaure and George Wajackoyah in the race to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta is ineligible due to the two-term limit in the Constitution.
The law requires IEBC to verify results and announce the President-elect within seven days.
“We shall endeavor to conclude this exercise at the earliest possible,” Chebukati said.
“The Commission calls for patience as it undertakes this rigorous exercise,” he appealed.
Kenyans were voting for the president and deputy president, 47 governors, 47 members of the senate, 47 women representatives, 290 Members of Parliament and 1 450 members of the County Assembly.
The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) projected a violent aftermath.
It stated that in 2022, more than 1 060 political “disorder events” had been reported as of August 5, already the largest number of incidents recorded for any year since the start of ACLED coverage of Kenya in 1997.
Polls that year were tragic. Post-election violence left over 1 200 people dead and 600 000 others displaced.
ACLED forecast two scenarios for the latest poll.
One is an unclear outcome.
In this case, none of the leading candidates secures the mandatory 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of the 47 counties, leading to a runoff.
“This portends that the current political violence landscape will persist or even intensify as the country prepares for the runoff,” ACLED stated.
Another scenario is involves a clear election outcome, after which there could again be violence, more likely from the losing side.
The National Police Service (NPS) assured citizens of their safety as well as security of their property.
“We give the assurance of remaining valuable and trustworthy partners to all Kenyans, partners and stakeholders during this critical period of elections,” Bruno Isohi Shioso, NPS spokesperson, stated.
– CAJ News