Ruto pulls ahead in Kenya’s presidential vote count as tempers fray

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NAIROBI, Aug. 14 (Reuters) – Kenya’s vice president William Ruto has taken a lead in a tight presidential race, according to official results reported by Kenyan media on Sunday, as more riot police were deployed at the National Election Observatory after skirmishes and accusations by party agents.

The spat underscored frayed tempers and high tensions within the national counting chamber as the country awaits the official results of Tuesday’s elections. There have been wry digs online about the melee of civilians pointing out that the rest of the nation is patiently waiting.

In the presidential race, official verified results reported by the Nation media group showed that Ruto took 51% of the vote, ahead of left-wing opposition leader Raila Odinga who had 48%.

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Confusion over the vote count in the media and the electoral commission’s slow progress have fueled fears in Kenya, which is East Africa’s wealthiest and most stable country but has a history of violence after contested elections.

Reuters was unable to access the official vote count for the presidential race on Sunday. A live feed of the results in the national counting center had disappeared hours earlier.

When asked about the count, a spokeswoman for the Reuters committee referred to the live feed. Other election officials said they could not provide the information.

Officially verified 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 votes plus one. The committee has seven days from voting to announce the winners.

A Reuters count of 255 out of 291 preliminary results at the constituency level at 1200 GMT on Sunday showed Ruto in the lead with 52% and Odinga with just over 47%. Two underage candidates shared less than one percent between them.

Reuters excluded 19 forms from the count because they lacked signatures or totals, were illegible or had other problems.

The preliminary count is based on forms that can be revised if discrepancies are discovered during the official verification process.

The many checks and balances are designed to avoid the kind of manipulation allegations that led to violence in 2007, when more than 1,200 people were killed, and in 2017, when more than 100 people were killed.

CHAOS IN THE COUNTING ROOM

Odinga and Ruto compete to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has served his two-term limit. Kenyatta quarreled with Ruto after the last election and supported Odinga as president.

Kenyatta leaves power by burdening Kenya with debt for expensive infrastructure projects and without addressing the endemic corruption that has eroded all levels of government. The next president will also take on the rapidly rising food and fuel costs.

Ruto’s strong performance reflects widespread dissatisfaction with Kenyatta’s legacy – even in parts of the country where the president has previously won the vote.

Large numbers of Kenyans also did not vote, as neither candidate inspired them.

On Sunday, Ruto party member Johnson Sakaja won the governorship of the capital Nairobi, the richest and most populous of the 47 provinces.

TENSION AT TALLYING CENTER

As the tight race continued, party agents became increasingly agitated in the counting center known as Bomas. Late on Saturday, Saitabao ole Kanchory, Raila Odinga’s chief agent, grabbed a microphone and announced that “Bomas of Kenya is a crime scene,” before officials turned off his microphone.

Party agents wrestled with each other, with police and with election officials, and at one point tried to drag an official out.

The scenes, broadcast on the national news, were met with bewilderment by Kenyans, who urged their leaders to grow up.

“The reckless behavior at Bomas by so-called leaders, which can quickly ignite the country, must be denounced,” tweeted Alamin Kimathi, a human rights activist. “Let the drama end. Let the process continue.”

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Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Frances Kerry and Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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