Kenya’s deputy prime minister has opened up an early lead as counting continues following the country’s presidential election. Officials though have cautioned that that the outcome of the vote remains far from clear.
Preliminary results announced on Tuesday gave Uhuru Kenyatta a significant lead over his closest rival in the presidential race, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
With about a third of the votes counted, Kenyatta had received around 2.65 million votes to 2.05 for Odinga. This figures represented 53 and 41 percent of the counted votes respectively.
Odinga appeared to remain confident about his chances, though, with a spokesman saying counting in his strongholds had not yet been completed.
The head of the electoral commission also warned against jumping to conclusions and said that Kenyans will likely have to wait a couple of more days for the final results.
"The law allows the commission to declare the results within seven days. Yesterday we voted. Today is the first day after the elections, " Isaak Hassan said. "We've got six more days, that is the legal position. We hope within 48 hours we will be able to announce."
Concern over high number of spoiled ballots
His comments followed complaints from the camps of both of the frontrunners about the slow pace of the vote counting. Hassan said the commission was working to speed up the process. He also expressed concern about the number of spoiled ballots cast, describing this as "quite worrying."
Figures obtained by the news agency Associated Press indicated that so far, the electoral commission had found more than 300,000 spoiled ballots.
Officials estimated the turnout for Monday's election at 70 percent of the country's 14 million registered voters. If no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the presidential vote, the two top finishers will face each other in a run-off election, to be held on April 11.
Although many Kenyans had to stand in line for hours to cast their ballots, election day was largely peaceful, apart from a series of attacks in the Mombasa area, which killed more than a dozen people.
On Tuesday, the authorities charged three suspected members of the separatist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) with murder in connection with the deaths of four police officers killed in the election-day attacks. The group advocates the secession of the Mombasa region from Kenya to form a separate country.
Fears remain about how Kenyans may react once the results of Monday's presidential election are announced. Following the 2007 vote, when President Mwai Kibaki was quickly declared the winner, supporters of Odinga, who was also a candidate back then, took to the streets to protest. Several weeks of violence ensued in which more than 1,000 people were killed.
Presidential candidate and Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta is facing criminal charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague stemming from the 2007 violence.
pfd/dr (AP, dpa, Reuters)