Anxiety rises over claims in close presidential vote
Human-rights groups on Wednesday warned anxious Kenyans over “rising levels of false or misleading information being shared on social media” as the country awaited results of a close presidential election. The electoral commission indicated it would be, at the earliest, on Thursday before a winner is declared.
High-profile supporters of the two leading candidates were tweeting claims of victory, citing counts based on more than 46,000 results forms posted online by the electoral commission in a gesture of transparency. Kenyan media raced to do their own tallies, but their differing, incomplete results added to confusion. The government-created Media Council of Kenya said it was consulting with editors for an “urgent solution to ensure Kenyans receive synchronised results”.
A day after Tuesday’s election in which the turnout was notably lower than in recent years, interest in the winner was sharpening in a country often held up as an example of a relatively strong democracy in Africa.
Amnesty International Kenya and other groups, in a statement, urged Kenyans to consider all results as provisional, until the electoral commission announces the official results, to reduce the risks of violence or claims of rigging. But tensions in some places were already high. In the Nairobi neighbourhood of Mathare, an angry crowd formed after seals on a few ballot boxes at a tallying centre were found broken.
Official election results must be announced within a week of the vote. More than 99 per cent of results forms had been electronically submitted by polling centres to the commission on Wednesday, but it still must verify them with the physical forms.
“The issue of saying that we should declare results today (Wednesday), that will not happen today,” commission chair Wafula Chebukati told journalists, but he said the aim is to conclude the process “at the earliest possible time”. He said polling went smoothly.
“It’s not done till it’s done,” Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua tweeted, as other top candidates were publicly silent.
A run-off election will be held if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes.
Both long-time opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto have said they will accept the results as long as the vote is free and fair.
Already, reported troubles include the failure of about 200 voting kits out of the more than 46,000. The electoral commission called it “not widespread” and “normal” for technology to break down at times. But some local reports also cited people saying they were unable to vote when polling workers wouldn’t use the paper voters’ register as a backup, which was allowed.