Vote counting is underway at polling stations across Kenya following the referendum on the new draft constitution, which surveys suggest will be approved.

Despite reports of tension in the run-up to the poll particularly in the volatile Rift Valley province, the epicentre of bloodshed following the disputed presidential elections of December 2007, voting has reportedly been without incident.

The turnout is said to have been very high in what is seen by many as an important test for democracy in Kenya in view of the next general elections in 2012. Long queues formed outside polling stations across the country from the early hours of the morning and it is understood that people who were still in line at the close of polling at 17.00 local time would be allowed to cast their ballot. The independent interim election commission has said it is expecting to receive the first provisional results from polling stations at around 19.00 local time and will be releasing updates every hour from then on. However, final results are not expected until sometime on 5 August at the earliest.

The proposed new constitution provides for less presidential power, a second house of parliament and more autonomy for the regions. Under its terms the president would no longer be allowed to appoint judges and government ministers would have to give up their parliamentary seats when appointed to office. In addition it provides for a special commission to settle land disputes.

For the new fundamental law to pass the