Sunday, April 21, 2024

Brief scuffles slow tallying in Kenya’s close election

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Kenya’s peaceful presidential election saw a brief disruption late Saturday when riot police responded to scuffles at the national tallying center amid tensions over the close results.

An agent for longtime opposition leader and candidate Raila Odinga announced from the lectern that the tallying center was the “scene of a crime” before calm was restored. The agent, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, offered no evidence in the latest example of the unverified claims that both top campaigns have made as Kenya waits for official results.

The electoral commission has seven days from Tuesday’s election to announce results. Chair Wafula Chebukati on Saturday again said the process was too slow, and the commission told nonessential people watching at the center to leave.

Police remained at the center on Sunday morning.

“We must all avoid raising tensions that could easily trigger violence,” local human rights groups and professional associations said in a joint statement Sunday urging restraint from candidates and their supporters.

The race remains close between Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto as the electoral commission physically verifies more than 46,000 results forms electronically transmitted from around the country.

Turnout dipped sharply in this election, to 65%, as some Kenyans expressed weariness with seeing long-familiar political leaders on the ballot and frustration with economic issues including widespread corruption and rising prices. Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta crossed the ethnic lines that have long marked politics by backing Odinga. The president fell out with his deputy Ruto years ago.

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