Kenyatta Leads Kenya Presidential Race as Tallying Delayed
Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is accused of crimes against humanity, led Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a presidential vote as the shilling slumped amid investor unease about a delay in the results.
Kenyatta had 53 percent of the vote with ballots from more than two-fifths of polling stations, while Odinga had 42 percent, according to provisional data on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s website. The figures haven’t been updated in at least a day after electronic results transmission broke down and the IEBC opted to announce hand- delivered final returns orally, as the law requires.
“The concern among Kenyans right now chiefly is whether results can actually be trusted after all these system failures,” Tom Ocholla, a politics professor at the University of Nairobi, said by phone. “It may be hard for the losing side to accept the results.”
The election is the first since fraud allegations by Odinga’s party after a December 2007 vote spawned two months of violence that killed 1,100 people and left 350,000 homeless. Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy and the regional hub for companies including Google Inc. (GOOG) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)
The shilling headed for its biggest decline in more than a year as investors became “jittery” over the slow pace of results, said NIC Bank Ltd. (NICB), a Nairobi-based lender. The currency slid 1.4 percent to 86.75 per dollar by 9:01 p.m. in Nairobi, poised for its biggest drop since Jan. 4, 2012.
“Yesterday people thought we would get a clear win in the first instance, but now it looks like it will take much longer and we have inquiries from clients who seem concerned,” Jeremiah Kendagor, head of trading at Nairobi-based Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd. (KNCB), said in a phone interview.
Shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange gained for a sixth day, extending the bourse’s All Share index advance to 15.2 percent this year. Turmoil after the last election triggered an 8.5 percent plunge in the Kenyan shilling and cut economic growth to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent in 2007.
The final results should be finished by Friday morning IEBC Chairman Isaack Hassan told reporters in Nairobi. About half of the 290 returning officers are in Nairobi with tallies for their constituencies, he said.
Kenyatta, the 51-year-old son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, is facing trial at the International Criminal Court for orchestrating violence during the last elections. He is running along with his one-time political rival William Ruto, a former Cabinet minister who has also been indicted by The Hague-based court. Both deny the charges.
Odinga, 68 and the son of Kenya’s first vice president, lost in 1997 and 2007, when he accused outgoing President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote. It sparked attacks against members and allies of Kibaki’s Kikuyu community and led to retaliation against Odinga’s Luo supporters.
Both candidates have taken similar positions on economic policy. They have pledged to increase investment in expanding the road network and boosting agriculture to help bolster growth and create 1 million new jobs every year.
Kenya’s economic growth has attracted greater outside interest in the Nairobi Securities Exchange. Foreign investors accounted for almost half of all share trading in 2012 from about 10 percent five years earlier.
The country is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and supplies a third of the flowers traded in Europe. Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) last year found the country’s first crude deposits. The economy may grow as much as 6 percent this year, from about 5 percent last year, provided no serious violence follows the elections, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The African Union’s chief observer, Joaquim Chissano, said the vote was “credible and transparent.” The European Union urged Kenyans to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere” pending the announcement of final results, chief observer Alojz Peterle told reporters in Nairobi today.
Many polling stations extended voting hours to cope with a turnout of more than 70 percent among 14.3 million registered voters. A change in the election system, which meant voters had to cast six ballot papers in separate boxes, is among factors that led to a “large number” of spoiled votes, Hassan said yesterday.
The commission rejected a total of 341,140 ballots, while it has counted 5.35 million valid votes, according to provisional results announced so far.
Odinga’s Coalition for Reform and Democracy wants the spoiled ballots counted as votes cast, Chairman Franklin Bett told reporters yesterday. That may mean Kenyatta is unable to secure more than 50 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff, Bett said.
Rejected votes have so far been excluded from the candidates’ percentages in provisional tallies. The commission is seeking an opinion from Attorney General Githu Muigai, Chief Executive Officer James Oswago said today by phone.
Kenyatta’s Jubilee Coalition criticized what it described as an effort by the U.K. to canvass for the inclusion of rejected ballots, according to an e-mailed statement today.
Claims that the U.K. has a position on the rejected ballots are “unhelpful and wrong,” Christian Turner, the high commissioner to Kenya, said on his Twitter account.
Kenyatta has 492,220 votes to Odinga’s 375,299 out of the 24 constituencies for which final results have announced by the electoral commission. A runoff between the top vote-getters will be held in April if neither gets the required majority and a quarter of ballots cast in at least 24 of 47 counties.
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. Kenya enacted a constitution in 2010 that created a devolved government to help share resources and power more equitably.
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