Kenyan President Has Vote Lead as Investors Fret Over Result

  • President seeks second term in race against former premier
  • Voting conducted peacefully with no major incidents reported

Kenyan Opposition Demands Odinga Be Declared Winner

Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta built a commanding lead in Kenya’s presidential elections as analysts focused on how the loser of the closely fought race will react to the result.

With more than 83.6 percent of the vote counted, Kenyatta has 55 percent, compared with 44.2 percent for his main rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission data. Turnout was “large,” the commission said, while the Interior Ministry said voting went peacefully.

“Whether the queues at the polling stations are long or short, the technology works or not, the international observers approve or disapprove, really for investors the only part of the election that matters is how the loser reacts to the declared results,” said Hasnain Malik, global head of equities research at Exotix Capital.

Opinion polls showed Kenyatta and Odinga running neck-and-neck in the run-up to the vote. Odinga, who has failed on three previous attempts to win the presidency, has refused to rule out a violent reaction from his supporters if the opposition alliance deems the election unfair. That’s raised the specter of unrest that marred three of the past five votes, including in 2007, when more than 1,100 people died.

The two leaders are vying to lead a country that ranks among the five biggest economies in sub-Saharan Africa, is the world’s largest exporter of black tea, and is a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. The upheaval after the 2007 vote caused economic growth to slow to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier.

Opinion Polls

While Tuesday’s election had eight presidential contenders, the only significant competition for Kenyatta, 55, is from 72-year-old Odinga.

Kenyatta has the backing of 47 percent of voters nationally compared to Odinga’s 44 percent, Ipsos Kenya said Aug. 1. Infotrak, another Nairobi-based pollster, put Odinga in the lead with 49 percent against Kenyatta’s 48 percent.

A Kenyatta victory will probably trigger protests by opposition supporters, with Odinga likely to either take his grievances to court, as he did in 2013, or escalate the issue on the streets and try to force a negotiated settlement, said Jared Jeffery, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics.

“Our forecast is still for Mr. Kenyatta to win the presidential election in the first round and for his Jubilee Party to win a majority in parliament,” Jeffery said. “If that comes to pass, there will be protests and it will be up to Mr. Odinga to decide whether they end in violence. Whatever the result, Mr. Odinga will have to show leadership.”

The two candidates have near-equal support in 38 of Kenya’s 47 counties, and the outcome will depend on who gets most votes in the remaining nine, Infotrak said. Turnout will be key to the result in the swing counties, according to Verisk Maplecroft.

The electoral authority hasn’t said when final results will be announced.

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