Kenyatta Leads Kenya Poll as Odinga Raises Voting Concerns

Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is accused of crimes against humanity, led Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a presidential vote that both complained had suffered from technical faults and delays.

Kenyatta has 53 percent of the vote with results from more than two-fifths of polling stations counted, while Odinga has 42 percent, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s website. Final results will start being announced tomorrow as returning officers bring in the physical ballots as required by law, Chairman Isaack Hassan said.

“There is growing concern over the slow pace at which they are being relayed,” he told reporters in the capital, Nairobi, acknowledging a failure in the real-time transmission of provisional results. “What matters here is the final results and they are coming in.”

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. and Toyota Motor Corp.

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 shilling advanced 0.6 percent to 85.50 per dollar by the close in Nairobi today, its strongest level in almost four months.

‘Massively, Peacefully’

“The shilling has strengthened a little bit due to the fact that so far we remain peaceful despite the relatively slow tallying of votes,” Raphael Agung, a senior trader at Nairobi-based Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd., said by phone.

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.

Kenyans “voted massively and peacefully” and “isolated violent incidences did not jeopardize the process as a whole,” the African Union said in a statement today that also noted there were challenges that unfolded during the voting.

At least 14 people were killed, including eight police officers, in attacks in Coast province before polls opened yesterday. Authorities blamed the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatist group that had called for a boycott of the vote.

Odinga Hopeful

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.

Although behind, Odinga expects to capture the lead once votes from his support bases are tallied, running mate Kalonzo Musyoka told reporters in Nairobi.

Kenya’s economy is expected to grow by as much as 6 percent this year, from an estimated 5 percent last year, provided no serious violence follows the elections, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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 Nairobi All Share index has advanced 14 percent this year, the third-best performance in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Ghana for dollar investors.

Spoiled Votes

Many polling stations extended voting hours yesterday 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, led to a “large number” of spoiled votes, Hassan said.

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.

Kenyatta’s camp urged the IEBC to remedy the problems affecting counting, according to an e-mailed statement.

“We are especially concerned at the slow progress of collecting votes in Nairobi and Nakuru,” Kenyatta spokesman Murigi Macharia said in the statement.

‘Not Rigging’

Odinga is “extremely concerned about all the anomalies and failures that we’ve seen,” adviser Salim Lone said by phone from New York, citing flaws in the manual voter list and electronic identification systems. “We are not alleging rigging. We are just very worried about the impact.”

The manifestos of Kenyatta and Odinga highlight similar priorities. They have pledged to increase investment in building infrastructure and developing agriculture to help accelerate economic growth and cut poverty.

Kenya, ranked a low-income nation by the World Bank, is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and supplies a third of the flowers traded in Europe. It may also become an oil producer after Tullow Oil Plc last year found the country’s first crude deposits.

“We do not expect any materially different market implications, as the flag-bearers of both leading coalitions are successful businessmen in their own rights,” Michael Kafe, a pan-African economist at Morgan Stanley in Johannesburg, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The independence of the Central Bank of Kenya and Ministry of Finance should be preserved under either candidate’s government.”

Kenyatta’s family controls land holdings, Brookside Dairy Ltd., which also has units in Tanzania and Uganda, and has stakes in the K24 television station, Commercial Bank of Africa and other companies, according to Forbes magazine. Odinga’s family owns East African Spectre, a Nairobi-based gas cylinder manufacturer, and a Kisumu molasses plant.

A runoff will be held in April if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of support and a quarter of votes cast in more than half the 47 counties.