Kenya election: Tense wait for Kenyatta and Odinga

An Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officer goes through certificates and tallying forms on March 7,2013 in Nairobi Election officials are now tallying ballots by hand


Kenya’s presidential rivals are still waiting for the results of Monday’s election, as a vote count beset by glitches enters a fourth day.

With 75% of constituencies declared, Uhuru Kenyatta has a clear lead, his tally hovering around the 50% mark.

If he fails to secure more than 50%, he will face a run-off vote against his rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta is due to face trial in The Hague in July for crimes against humanity.

Latest election results

Raila Odinga (left) Uhuru Kenyatta (right)

  • Uhuru Kenyatta (R): 4.8m votes (50.2%)
  • Raila Odinga (L): 4.1m votes (43.5%)
  • Votes cast: 9.4m
  • 226 of 291 constituencies declared

He is accused of fuelling communal violence after the 2007 election that saw more than 1,000 people killed. He denies the accusations.

Trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) typically last for years, and it is unclear how Mr Kenyatta would be able to govern Kenya, if elected.

Countries including the US and UK have hinted that his election as president would have consequences for their relations with the Nairobi government.

Computer glitches

This year’s election has so far been largely peaceful.


image of Gabriel Gatehouse Gabriel Gatehouse BBC News, Nairobi

On polling day it was the biometric voter-identification kits that failed. Then, about 36 hours into the counting process, the electronic transmission system shuddered to a halt.

This election will be remembered as the poll where paper trumped digital.

The failure of the high-tech biometric kits had, by and large, one distinctly low-tech cause: A lack of electricity at polling stations. As laptops ran out of power, election officials went back to the paper register.

The failure of the digital transmission system is more mysterious. It was designed to communicate results in real-time, from polling stations around the country to a national tallying centre in Nairobi.

At first the IEBC, Kenya’s electoral commission, said the system may have been overloaded. But technology experts dismissed those suggestions: the concept was based on SMS-messages, containing relatively small amounts of digital information.

On Thursday, the chairman of the IEBC, Issack Hassan, said a bug had been identified which had multiplied the number of rejected ballots by a factor of eight. But he could not provide clarity on why the whole system had so spectacularly failed.

This high-profile flop is an embarrassment for the IEBC, as well as a stain on the reputation of a country positioning itself as an African tech-hub.

But the system was introduced with one main purpose: to eliminate the possibility of vote-rigging, and give the Kenyan electorate faith in the credibility of the count. Its failure could end up having the opposite effect.

But the count has been plagued by a series of technical glitches.

One of these was a programming error, which led to the number of rejected votes being multiplied by a factor of eight.

This meant more than 330,000 votes were initially rejected – enough to change the course of the election.

The electronic system was abandoned, and the process of tallying results from the 32,000 polling stations around the country was restarted by hand on Wednesday.

However, an umbrella group of civil society activists has launched a court case in an attempt to stop the vote count.

They say election officials have not explained the nature of the computer glitch.

By Friday morning, 226 of 291 constituencies had declared.

Mr Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, had 50.2% of the vote. Mr Odinga was trailing with 43.5%.

The supporters of both men have criticised the vote tallying.

Mr Kenyatta’s camp also accused the British of meddling in the election, an allegation denied by London.

The BBC’s James Copnall in Nairobi says Kenyans are waiting impatiently for the result, crowding around TV sets to watch coverage of the election.

Turnout was estimated at more than 70% of 14.3 million voters.