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Kenya: Election officials reject call to stop tallying votes

March 07, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Kenyan police officers stand guard at the entrance to a Nairobi polling station where election commissioners were at work.
Kenyan police officers stand guard at the entrance to a Nairobi polling… (Simon Maina / AFP/Getty…)

A political coalition in Kenya called Thursday for a halt to tallying votes in the country's presidential race, alleging that the process “lacks integrity” and should be restarted.

The running mate of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has been trailing in the Kenyan presidential polls, said their coalition had evidence of “doctored” results. In some areas, the number of votes exceeded the number of registered voters, Stephen K. Musyoka said.

Kenya's election commission rejected the accusation and continued its count, telling reporters that “rigorous verification” was in place to prevent tampering.

As the votes continued to be tallied, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta held the lead, according to provisional results posted on the election commission website. But when the latest results were added late Thursday, Kenyatta had slipped below half of the vote, the Associated Press reported –- a result that would force him to compete with Odinga in a runoff election.

Election disputes are being eyed closely in Kenya in light of the deadly violence that erupted after polling results were announced six years ago. The bloodshed that year cost as many as 1,500 lives.

The legacy of that violence shadows the campaign: Kenyatta and his running mate face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, accused of inciting killings during those clashes -- accusations they deny. On Thursday, their trial was postponed to July.

Mindful of the fears swirling around the new election, Musyoka urged Kenyans to remain calm, even as he challenged the process. “This is not a call to mass action,” he said.

Backers of Kenyatta have raised complaints of their own about the tallying, arguing that high numbers of rejected ballots were unfairly inflating the number of votes needed for a candidate to win outright. A candidate must get more than half of the vote to avoid a runoff, and there are eight candidates competing.

Kenyans went to the polls Monday, but results have been slow in coming because a computer system collapsed, forcing election officials to rely on manual counting instead.

The delay has left Kenyans anxiously awaiting the results. Politicians from the parties backing both of the leading candidates were ejected from the national tallying center Thursday after they began shouting at election commissioners, the Standard newspaper reported from Nairobi.

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