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Kenya: Ruto declared presidential race winner

August 15, 2022

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto was able to hold on to a lead over longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga. The announcement followed chaotic scenes amid disagreement among election officials.

William Ruto
William Ruto served as deputy president, but had not got endorsement from his bossImage: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

Kenya's electoral commission chair on Monday announced that Deputy President William Ruto won the tight presidential race.

The results were called just minutes after four out of seven election officials said that they rejected the imminent, highly anticipated announcement.  

"We cannot take ownership of the result that will be announced," Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) vice chair Juliana Cherera told reporters, saying the process was "opaque."

At the same time, Ruto declared victory, stating that "there are no losers. The people of Kenya have won because we raised the political bar."

Announcement prompts scuffles among officials, public

There were chaotic scenes before the results were made official, with scuffles breaking out in the tallying hall. Footage showed a man throwing a podium off the stage and diplomats were reportedly whisked to safety. 

Two election officials were also reportedly injured. 

DW correspondent Felix Maringa said that the elections authorities alleged that "the IEBC systems had been hacked" and that the vote counting office was "a crime scene." Maringa described an "ugly scene" with officials throwing chairs at each other.

The August 9 election saw two candidates run almost neck-and-neck — Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

A tally published by the mass-circulation Daily Nation newspaper showed, based on results from more than 80% of constituencies, that Ruto was edging ahead.

Ruto was leading with slightly more than 51% of the vote, while Odinga had 48%. 

Reporting from a traffic roundabout in Odinga's hometo, Kisumu, in western Kenya, DW correspondent Mariel Müller described the situation Monday evening after the results were announced as "very tense."

Müller said riot police had fired tear gas to disperse protesters who became aggressive after receiving word of Ruto's victory.

"This morning when we arrived here, this whole place was packed with people, celebrating and convinced their favored candidate, Raila Odinga, would win this election. So, they were devastated when they heard the news that William Ruto won, and the mood changed very quickly."

How do elections work in Kenya? 

Under Kenya's constitution, the IEBC had up to seven days to announce the results, meaning that they needed to be made public by Tuesday at the latest. 

For a candidate to win the presidential race, they need to receive 50%+1 of the votes. 

Besides electing the president, Kenyans last week cast their votes for some 1,882 legislators and local officials. 

The election saw a low turnout, with about 65% of the 22.1 million registered voters casting their ballots, according to the IEBC. The turnout in the 2017 election was nearly 80%.

An infographic showing the rules and numbers of the Kenyan elections

Who were the front runners?

Ruto has served as deputy president since 2013. His boss, outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, endorsed Odinga in this presidential election. 

Kenyatta's support for Odinga, a longtime opposition figure, effectively made Ruto run as the challenger. His lead is seen as a symbol of discontent with Kenyatta's legacy.  

Ruto has pledged to implement a new bottom-up economic model, with a focus on Kenya's informal workers' sector. 

The 55-year-old previously served as minister of home affairs, minister of agriculture, and minister of higher education.

Odinga, 77, was making his fifth bid for the top job, after losing in 1997, 2007, 2013, and 2017.

The veteran opposition leader also pledged to reform the economy in the East African nation.

fb,es/wmr (AFP, Reuters)