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Kenya braces for poll results in controversial election

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Supporters of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga react as they listen to his address in Nairobi slum of Kawangware on October 29, 2017 after a Sunday’s service at the Gatina Church. Kenya’s repeated presidential election, held after an August 8 vote was annulled, has still not been completed after violence prevented voting on October 26 in flashpoint opposition strongholds. / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

Kenya’s election board said it would announce Monday the winner of a highly contentious election, sparking fears of further violence in flashpoint opposition strongholds.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is headed for a landslide victory in the country’s repeat election which was boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose supporters violently protested last Thursday’s vote.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had earlier said it would postpone voting in 25 violence-hit constituencies.

But in Monday’s announcement, it appeared to abandon plans to reschedule the ballot.

“Having been satisfied that the results of the elections shall not be affected by voting in areas where the election was postponed, we therefore invite the presidential candidates for the announcement of the result at 3:30 pm (1230GMT) today,” said the IEBC’s vice chairwoman, Consolata Nkatha.

While calm has reigned for the past 48 hours in the restive west of the country and some flashpoint Nairobi slums, the announcement is expect to fuel further anger and protests.

At least nine people have died since election day, many shot by police according to rights groups, taking the death toll since the first presidential election on August 8 to 49.

Ahead of the announcement, security was stepped up in flashpoint areas in the west, as well as in Nairobi’s Mathare slum and its central business district and in the coastal city of Mombasa, a senior police source told AFP.

– Calls for calm –
US Ambassador Robert Godec called for “calm in the coming days” and expressed concern over the recent clashes.

“Leaders and politicians should clearly and publicly reject violence and work to keep the peace, and make every effort to ensure their supporters do so as well,” he said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned by reports of excessive use of force by the police.”

The re-run came after Kenya’s Supreme Court last month annulled Kenyatta’s victory in the August election, citing widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of results and mismanagement by the IEBC.

While the Supreme Court ruling was hailed as a chance to deepen democracy, the acrimonious bickering between Odinga and Kenyatta — whose fathers were rivals before them — has sharply divided a country where politics is already polarised along tribal lines.

The current political crisis is the worst since a 2007 vote sparked months of politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 people dead.

While the dynamics of 2017’s political crisis are very different, the memory of the bloodshed a decade ago is never far away.

– Low turnout mars vote –
Odinga refused to take part in the re-run, accusing the IEBC of failing to make sufficient reforms to ensure it would not be flawed.

He called on his voters to stay away on election day, however in the west many blocked polling stations, leading to violent clashes with police.

Plans to restage the vote in the western regions on Saturday were quickly called off after a second day of protests, over fears for the safety of polling staff.

With Kenyatta headed for a crushing win, all eyes have been on turnout to determine if he was able to rally his supporters and secure a decisive mandate.

As the results were still being counted, IEBC chief Wafula Chebukati said Sunday that turnout was 7.4 million people — placing it at 43 percent in areas where the election took place.

However, in reality this represents only 37 percent of Kenya’s 19.6 million registered voters.

On Sunday, Odinga continued to demand a new election within 90 days, vowing to stage a campaign of “civil disobedience”.

Despite pulling out, Odinga’s name was left on ballot papers.

This means he could again petition the Supreme Court to challenge the election, and observers fear further legal battles that will extend the uncertainty that has already hit east Africa’s richest economy hard.



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