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A tense Kenya awaits the results of the high stakes vote

#tense #Kenya #awaits #results #high #stakes #vote

Kenyans anxiously awaited the results of the country’s presidential election on Wednesday after a largely peaceful election, with low turnout in some areas suggesting growing frustration with the political elite.

Although the president’s frontrunners, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, both vowed to keep calm after Tuesday’s election, memories of past election-related violence remain fresh for many Kenyans, who have urged political parties to change the results to accept.

With increasing pressure on the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which has until August 16 to announce the results, officials worked overnight to count the votes and allay fears of manipulation.

“We call on the Kenyans to be patient while we conduct this rigorous exercise and we are also striving to complete this exercise as soon as possible,” IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati said in a late night briefing.

Kenyans, some lining up before dawn to cast their ballots, voted in six elections on Tuesday, electing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women’s representatives and some 1,500 county officials.

However, despite initial enthusiasm, turnout appeared to be weak in some areas, suggesting that for some Kenyans at least, patience with years of unfulfilled promises was running out.

Even those who showed up early to vote said they were tired of electing political leaders who had done little to improve their lives.

“All this time we’ve been conducting elections, getting promises, but we don’t see any change,” said George Otieno Henry, a 56-year-old handyman.

“I hope this time will be better,” he told AFP in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums.

As of 4:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), 10 hours into the polls, turnout was just over 56 percent of the 22 million registered voters, according to the IEBC.

Comparable figures for the August 2017 election were not immediately available, but overall turnout for that vote reached 78 percent.

– Cost of Living Crisis –

Vice President Ruto and Odinga, a veteran opposition leader now backed by the ruling party, have both pledged to tackle the cost of living crisis and make life easier for ordinary Kenyans.

But many are preparing for the pair to squabble over the results, echoing previous polls in the east African nation, where no presidential election result has gone unchallenged since 2002.

At one point, heir to the throne Ruto, 55, was relegated to the sidelines after two-year President Uhuru Kenyatta – who cannot run for a third time – joined forces with his former enemy Odinga, 77, in a startling move across the country.

Since then, the wealthy businessman has posed as a champion of “hustlers” trying to make a living in a country ruled by “dynasties” – the Kenyatta and Odinga families, who have dominated Kenyan politics since independence from Britain in dominated in 1963.

With a third of Kenya’s population living in poverty, voters were under economic pressure even before the war in Ukraine drove up prices for essential goods.

Ahead of the election, some observers suspected the economy could surpass tribal affiliations as a key factor influencing voter behavior, while others said politicians’ failure to deal with the crisis could keep people from voting altogether.

“Many Kenyans … have cited a lack of trust in politicians to improve their current economic situation as the main reason for not voting in August,” Oxford Economics said in a statement last week.

– ‘Calm and friendly’ –

Analysts have suggested Odinga, a former political prisoner and former prime minister taking his fifth stab at the presidency, could slip past his younger rival.

If no one wins more than 50 percent, Kenya will hold a runoff for the first time in its history.

Kenya’s international partners are closely watching the elections in a country that is seen as a beacon of regional stability.

Local elections were suspended in several areas on Tuesday, prompting a protest in one case, but police said the electoral process had largely “remained calm and peaceful with no major incidents reported”.

Security has been tight to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence that has hit Kenya in the past.

The 2007 election was followed by politically motivated ethnic clashes that left more than 1,100 dead, while Odinga’s challenge to the 2017 election result was met with a brutal police response that left dozens dead.

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