Kenyans voted by 6,016,550 votes to 2,712,952, or 68.9 per cent to 31.1 per cent, in favour of the new constitution in the 4 August referendum according to official results from 206 out of 210 constituencies, the interim independent electoral commission (IIEC) has said.

It is still not clear exactly how many of the just over 12.5 million registered voters (out of a total population of 40 million) cast their ballot, but based on the results so far the turnout is already in the region of 70 per cent. This is well above the 52 per cent that turned out to vote in a similar referendum in 2005, when an earlier proposed new constitution was rejected. The only exception to the positive trend seems to have been the poor arid northeast of the country near the border with Somalia.

The result is seen as a significant step forward for democracy in Kenya, which will now get a new two-chamber parliament, restrictions on the power of the president, greater regional autonomy and its first real bill of rights. On the eve of polling some observers expressed concern about the possibility of a repeat of the violence that followed the disputed December 2007 presidential elections, but in the event voting was orderly and peaceful.

In conceding defeat education minister William Ruto, leader of the