NAIROBI (awp/afp) – The two favorites for the August 9 presidential election in Kenya are in a pocket handkerchief, according to partial official results released on Sunday in this country immersed in expectation, where calls for calm and unity multiply.
According to the official count of the Electoral Commission (IEBC) covering nearly half of the polling stations, outgoing Vice-President William Ruto counted 51.25% of the vote on Sunday, against 48.09% for Raila Odinga, historic figure of the opposition now supported by the outgoing president.
Faced with this presidential duel, which could be the tightest in the history of Kenya, the population holds its breath.
Calls were made to maintain the calm that prevailed during the election and the atmosphere across the country remained peaceful, far from past post-election tensions and violence, sometimes bloody.
On Sunday, the two main candidates displayed an image of serenity. In a white shirt and light jacket, William Ruto appeared relaxed, singing hand in pocket during a mass in Nairobi.
Raila Odinga, in blue tunic, her campaign color, prayed in another church in the capital.
Elsewhere in the country, Sunday services, which are very popular in this religious country, have been the occasion for appeals to responsibility.
Bishop Washington Ogonyo Ngede, a long-time friend of the Odinga family, urged Kisumu – Odinga’s stronghold located in the west of the country – to overcome divisions.
When the results are announced, “do not create problems or chaos, but pray for the new president that God has given us (…). Leaders come and go but Kenya lives forever”, he said. he launched, acclaimed by the approximately 300 faithful present.
In the Diocese of Eldoret, Ruto’s stronghold in the Rift Valley, Bishop Dominic Kimengich also said he was praying for peace. “People have expressed their preference. Politicians must accept the will of the people,” he said before a mass in the parish of Yamumbi.
Echoing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Twitter on Saturday, around fifteen NGOs and unions, including Amnesty International, called on Sunday for “patience”.
“We applaud Kenyans for their peaceful conduct during the elections and call for calm while the results are verified,” they said in a statement, saying they were “truly impressed by the many candidates who graciously conceded defeat and pleaded for work with the victors”.
Record of women elected
Some 22.1 million voters were called to the polls on Tuesday to appoint President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor, as well as their governors, parliamentarians and local elected officials.
The results of the local polls are also falling in dribs and drabs. They do not suggest which camp will delight the parliamentary majority, but they already draw a historic breakthrough for women.
For the presidential election, the suspense is maximum. If neither of these two candidates collects more than 50% of the vote, as well as 25% of the vote in half of the 47 counties, Kenya will have a second round for the first time.
The IEBC is therefore under pressure. Not only because the economic engine of East Africa is idling while waiting for the results, but also because this commission was strongly criticized five years ago after a presidential election invalidated by the Supreme Court, then rescheduled.
On Friday, the IEBC acknowledged that the collection, counting and verification of results took longer than expected, slowed down, it said, by interference from political party supporters.
Some clashes opposed activists in the night from Saturday to Sunday in the room where the IEBC is carrying out the verification of the results.
This election is closely scrutinized by the international community.
Kenya is indeed a democratic anchor in the region and the results of all presidential elections have been contested there since 2002.
Last Tuesday’s poll saw voter turnout around 65% (compared to 78% in August 2017), amid rampant inflation and frustration with the political elite.