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Kenyatta takes early lead in Kenya

China Daily/Agencies | Updated: 2013-03-06 10:17

Kenyatta takes early lead in Kenya

Masai wait to cast their ballots in front of a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections near town of Magadi some 85 km south of Nairobi, March 4, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

Kenyan presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta opened an early lead as the East African nation counted ballots on Tuesday in an election that brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.

The deputy prime minister, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity linked to the last election, was leading Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

But Kenyatta could still be overtaken as the count goes on in a vote that Kenyans hope will restore their nation's image as one of Africa's most stable democracies after the bloodshed of five years ago.

Although voting was relatively peaceful with a big turnout, the real test will be whether the candidates and their backers accept the result, unlike the disputed 2007 vote, which touched off ethnic bloodshed that killed more than 1,200 people.

"Nobody should celebrate, nobody should complain," election commission chairman Isaac Hassan told journalists, saying work was going on to resolve glitches and speed up the count. "We therefore continue to appeal for patience from the public."

Results from 10,000 polling stations are in, but officials await results from 23,000 more, Hassan said.

The commission says provisional results may not be tallied until Wednesday, meaning an official declaration will not come until then or later.

Kenyatta's lead has held overnight, but more than 60 percent of polling stations have yet to report. Odinga's camp said counting in their strongholds had not been completed yet, and a debate over the fate of a sizeable number of rejected votes could help shift the balance.

50 percent threshold

Kenyatta or Odinga need more than 50 percent of the vote to win, or the two will contend in an April runoff. The vote commission has seven days to release certified results.

Hassan said the number of so-called spoiled ballots - votes that won't be counted for not complying with all the rules - was "quite worrying".

Long lines formed around the country on Monday. Election officials estimate that turnout was about 70 percent of the 14 million registered voters.

In the coastal city of Mombasa, three suspected members of the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council were charged on Tuesday in a court for the murder of four police officers during elections.

On Monday, a group of 200 separatists set a trap for police in Mombasa in the pre-dawn hours, Inspector-General David Kimaiyo said. Four police were hacked to death with machetes, coast police boss Aggrey Adoli said. The group had threatened election day attacks, Kimaiyo said.

The MRC believes Kenya's coast should be an independent country. Their cause, which is not defined by religion, is fueled by the belief that political leaders in Nairobi have taken the coast's land for themselves, impoverishing indigenous residents.


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