Kenya’s electoral authority counted presidential votes for a third day with partial results showing Uhuru Kenyatta, who’s charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, in the lead.
Kenyatta, a deputy prime minister, garnered 2.42 million votes and Prime Minister Raila Odinga received 1.88 million, with results from more than a third of 291 constituencies, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The shilling gained against the dollar after the authority switched to manual counting, replacing a new electronic results-transmission system that broke down and caused delays.
“The mood in the market is much better,” Bernard Matimu, chief dealer at Nairobi-based NIC Bank Ltd. (NICB), said by phone. “We now have a proper system of tallying and the mood in the country is peaceful. The sentiment is positive.”
Accusations by Odinga that he was robbed of the presidential victory by Mwai Kibaki in the last election in December 2007 sparked two months of clashes that left more than 1,100 people dead and another 350,000 homeless. The unrest curbed growth in East Africa’s largest economy to 1.5 percent in 2008, from 7 percent the year earlier, and disrupted key trade routes for landlocked neighbors including Uganda and Rwanda.
“The moment the process isn’t deemed to be free and fair and the IEBC is seen not to be managing the process properly, the chances of the results being rejected become very high,” Otsieno Namwaya, a Kenyan researcher for Human Rights Watch, said by phone from Nairobi. “That would raise the chances of violence.”
The 2007-08 turmoil exposed long-standing grievances between ethnic groups mainly over the unequal distribution of power, land and other resources.
The ICC will starting holding trials at The Hague for Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto in April. The two men face crimes against humanity charges for ordering and financing the 2007-08 clashes. They were in opposite political camps at the last vote. Both deny the charges and have said they can govern the country while fighting to clear their names.
Investors and foreign governments are watching to see if tensions resurface. Kenya is the regional hub for companies including General Electric Co. (GE), Pfizer Inc. and Huawei Technology Co. and it may become an oil producer after Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) discovered the first crude deposits in the nation’s northwest a year ago.
There’s also been rising interest from outside investors in Kenyan equities. Foreign participation represented about half of share trading on the Nairobi stock exchange last year, up from 10 percent in 2007.
Shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange gained for a sixth day yesterday, extending the bourse’s All Share index advance to 15 percent this year. The International Monetary Fund says the economy may expand as much as 6 percent if peace prevails, compared with an estimated 5 percent in 2012.
Kenya is an important security ally of the West. It has troops participating in the United Nations-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where the government is fighting al-Qaeda- linked militants.
Kenyatta and Odinga have proposed similar plans to invest in expanding the road network, electricity supplies and agricultural production to accelerate economic growth and create 1 million new jobs a year.
The electoral authority by law has until March 11 to declare a new president, although it may be able to make the announcement by tomorrow, Chairman Issack Hassan said yesterday.
Aside from the president, voters chose 290 lawmakers as well as governors, women’s representatives and senators for 47 counties and 1,450 delegates for county assemblies at the March 4 vote. Kenya enacted a constitution in 2010 that created a devolved government to help empower marginalized communities.
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