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Kenyans anxious for news on next president


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Kenyans anxious for news on next president
A member of polling staff walks among sealed ballot boxes containing electoral materials at an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tallying centre after the general election in Nairobi, Kenya - Reuters

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Nairobi – Kenyans crowded around radios and televisions on Thursday, increasingly anxious for news of who their next president might be, two days after voting in an election ended.

The East African country’s election commission (IEBC) has neither released a running tally of results nor said when it plans to announce the winner, but unofficial and sometimes conflicting media counts show a close race.

Veteran opposition leader and former political prisoner Raila Odinga, 77, is making his fifth stab at the presidency. He stands neck and neck with outgoing Deputy President William Ruto, 55.

Kenyan media are compiling results from images of forms that the commission uploaded on to its website from more than 46 000 polling stations, a mammoth task that means their tallies differ, and lag far behind the amount of raw data available.

Amid concerns that those discrepancies could trigger claims of rigging, which have sparked deadly violence after recent ballots, many are urging their fellow citizens – after a largely peaceful election – to wait patiently for the official results.

Outside a butcher’s shop in the western town of Eldoret, dozens of men backslapped each other as they crowded round to read the latest headlines and argued over the relative merits of Ruto and Odinga.

But they all expressed faith in the commission’s ability to deliver a true result.

More than 1 200 people were killed in widespread violence that followed the 2007 election, and more than 100 died after the 2017 polls.

That history adds to scrutiny on an electoral commission wary of repeating mistakes in tallying that caused the Supreme Court to nullify the 2017 result and order a re-run.

The 2022 outcome is being watched carefully overseas too.

Kenya is the region’s richest economy, a stable nation in a volatile region and a close Western ally that hosts regional headquarters for Alphabet, Visa, and other international groups.

International observers were generally positive about the election, despite some last-minute printing problems, changes to procedures and inconsistencies in posting results.

(Reuters)