Kenya’s election troubles could stir violence

An officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission viewed documents.
Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images
An officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission viewed documents.

NAIROBI — Kenya’s presidential race tightened late Thursday as new results pushed the leading candidate below the crucial 50 percent mark needed to win outright. A final result was expected Friday, but the close race and a troubled vote count are sparking fears of the kind of violence that ripped through the country after its last national election.

Tensions rose as the political coalition led by Kenya’s prime minister, currently running in second, alleged that some vote results have been doctored and called for a stop to a tallying process it said ‘‘lacked integrity.’’

The statement by Raila Odinga’s coalition said the counting process should be restarted using primary documents from polling stations, but the election commission insisted there was no way to doctor the results.


Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta had a small lead over Odinga as of late Thursday, though crucially Kenyatta for the first time slipped below the 50 percent threshold that would give him a clean win.

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Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto face charges at the International Criminal Court for their alleged involvement directing postelection violence five years ago. The court announced Thursday that the start of Kenyatta’s trial would be delayed from April until July.

Kenya’s national vote on Monday was the first since the 2007 election sparked tribe-on-tribe attacks that killed more than 1,000 people. Minor protests have cropped up, but no massive rioting or ethnic violence has occurred. As more time passes without a final result, though, tensions are rising, sparking fears that the dam now holding back potential protests could break.

Though Odinga’s party said it continues to urge ‘‘calm, tolerance and peace,’’ its call for a halt to the vote count and allegations of vote rigging could agitate its supporters. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Odinga’s running mate, said the announcement ‘‘is not a call to mass action.’’

The winner must capture 50 percent of the vote from the eight presidential candidates in order to win; otherwise there is a runoff.


Officials on Thursday continued to add up votes from tally sheets that have been transported to the capital.