Kenya’s presidential election tightens

Kenya's presidential race tightened on 8 March as the gap narrowed between deputy prime minister Kenyatta, who had enjoyed an early lead, and his main rival prime minister Raila Odinga.

According to the counting on the afternoon of Friday 8 March the gap between Kenyatta, still just ahead, and Odinga had narrowed to about 400,000 votes. This gives Kenyatta 49.68 per cent of the vote to Odinga’s 44.55 per cent. If this trend holds up then the two candidates will face a run-off election on 11 April.

Following Kenyatta's early lead in the counting immediately after 4 March election the gap closed when votes from Odinga strongholds were counted, with analysts saying it could now be harder for Kenyatta to achieve an outright majority.

Largely due to technical difficulties in relaying results from polling stations countrywide, the votes from only 185 of the 291 constituencies have been counted.

Kenyatta, of the “Jubilee” alliance, and Odinga of the “Cord” alliance, are battling it out to succeed outgoing two-term president Mwai Kibaki who beat Odinga in the contested 2007 election that led to the deaths of 1,100 people and the displacement of further hundreds of thousands.

The 2013 election is complicated given that Kenyatta is indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity, relating to his alleged role in the orchestration of violence after the last election. His trial was recently postponed, probably until the summer but, if elected, he has promised to attend the court sessions.

There has been pressure on Kenya from its neighbours and the international community to conduct peaceful elections. So far international observers have broadly agreed that the vote and count was transparent, while IEBC estimates the turnout at more than 70 per cent of the 14.3 million eligible voters.

Both Odinga and Kenyatta have raised questions over the voting process, in what has been a tense week for Kenya. In the lead-up to the elections both candidates pledged to accept the outcome and urged their voters to remain calm.

Meanwhile Evans Kidero of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was declared the Nairobi governor-elect after receiving 692,483 votes. The results were announced on 7 March at the Nyayo National Stadium in central Nairobi. His closest challenger was his main rival Ferdinand Waititu of The National Alliance (TNA) who polled 617,839.