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Kenya holds historic election

By Li Lianxing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-05 00:36

Kenya holds historic election

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials verify a woman's identity before voting at Dandora Secondary School in Nairobi during the elections on Monday. Long lines of Kenyans lined up long before dawn to vote, with a deadly police ambush hours before polling started marring the key ballot. [Photo/Agencies]

Millions of Kenyans faced a sleepless night as they started lining up under the stars in the early hours on Monday to vote in the historic national election to decide the path this country will take for the next five years.

In a polling station in the Kilimali area of Nairobi at 8 am, lines extended from inside the building to the main road, and they grew longer because of slow voting procedures. But it was a peaceful event, coordinated by inspectors and police.

Unlike previous elections, Kenyans will vote for six positions, including president and local governor, by biometric voting kits, which are designed to avoid election-rigging and delays in announcing winners.

Some election watchers say polling disruption, disorganization, vote-buying and ID card thefts have been verified in certain stations, but generally, the process went well.

But before the election, 12 people, including six police officers, were reportedly killed in an ambush in Mombasa, the large southeast port city. Police said that members of the Mombasa Republican Council, a secessionist group, staged the raid.

In the northeastern Muslim city of Garissa on Sunday, two people were killed, bringing the death toll from election-related violence to 14.

To ensure safety and order, more than 99,000 police officers have been deployed across the country. However, escalated violence and chaos normally follows the release of the election results.

This is the first general election after a new constitution was introduced in 2010 to decentralize political power and prevent a repeat of the 2007-08 post-election violence, which led to more than 1,300 deaths and made 600,000 people homeless.

The violence scarred the country and its people, and it reminded everyone of the importance of having peace and stability in this election, although security concerns are still paramount.

People began stockpiling necessities a week ago, and the sale of food and some other products has more than doubled, according to a cashier in a Nairobi supermarket.

Some foreigners and expatriates have temporarily left for neighboring countries because of potential violence.

The front-running parties in the presidential election — the Jubilee coalition, led by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, and the Coalition for Reform and Democracy, led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga — both said they will accept the election results. But if no one in the first round gets more than 50 percent of the votes at the national level and 25 percent support from at least 24 counties out of 47 across the country, the 30 days before a second-round vote could turn violent on the streets.

According to several pre-election surveys, the top two candidates each received 44 to 46 percent support, making a second round of voting likely.

In addition, extremists from Somalia have attempted many terrorist attacks since Kenyan troops invaded southern Somalia in November 2010, and this election could give them an opportunity for new attacks if chaos ensues. Official results are scheduled to be announced by the electoral commission in a week, but provisional results will come out earlier.

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