NAIROBI, Kenya — As outcomes poured in from Kenya’s cliffhanger presidential election, patrons at a restaurant in Eldoret, 150 miles north of Nairobi, the capital, stared up at six tv screens on Thursday evening that have been exhibiting the competing tallies by Kenyan information media retailers.
With 90 % of the votes tallied, the 2 important contenders, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, have been just a few thousand votes aside. Each had about 49 % of the vote.
“People are so tense,” stated Kennedy Orangi, a hospital nurse brandishing two cellphones, “that they cannot even think straight.”
Then the tallies floor to a halt.
Suddenly, thousands and thousands of Kenyans, who had been glued to their televisions, radios and telephones since Tuesday’s vote, have been at midnight concerning the newest outcomes of a neck-and-neck presidential race that has gripped the nation, and is being scrutinized far past.
On Friday, Kenyan information organizations gave numerous explanations for stopping their counts, together with fears of hacking and a need to “synchronize” their outcomes.
But to many Kenyans, it appeared they obtained chilly toes and shied away from having to declare the winner in a high-stakes political battle that pits Mr. Ruto, the nation’s vp, towards Mr. Odinga, a political veteran making his fifth run for the presidency.
Now, voters need to proceed their nail-biting wait. Officials say it is going to seemingly be Sunday, on the earliest, earlier than the election fee can declare an official winner within the race — and to know whether or not both candidate can move the 50 % threshold wanted to keep away from a runoff.
The stakes on this election are excessive for Kenya, an East African powerhouse with a current historical past of turbulent elections. But it additionally reverberates past, as a litmus check for democracy at a time when authoritarianism is advancing throughout Africa, and the globe.
“Kenya is an anchor for stability, security and democracy — not just in the region, or on this continent, but across the globe,” the embassies of the United States and 13 different Western nations stated in a press release on the eve of the election.
Seared by criticism of its failings in earlier votes, the nationwide election fee went to nice lengths to make this an exemplary election.
With a funds of over $370 million, one of many highest per voter prices on the earth, the fee sourced printed paper ballots from Europe that had extra safety features than Kenya’s foreign money notes. It deployed biometric expertise to determine voters by their fingerprints and pictures.
The election fee “has done a very professional job,” stated Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya who’s serving as an election observer. The biometric system “worked better than many people anticipated and has proved to be a useful model to build on.”
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The fee started posting on-line outcomes from over 46,000 polling stations inside hours of the polls closing on Tuesday, a transfer of radical transparency supposed to push back fears of potential vote rigging.
But within the counting, issues haven’t gone fully to plan.
The election fee’s resolution to publish the outcomes on-line — permitting the information media to do the primary, unofficial tally of the outcomes — has proved to be problematic. Media organizations tallied in numerous sequences, resulting in conflicting stories of who was forward.
That drew criticism from worldwide and native observers just like the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which stated that divergent tallies have been causing “confusion, anxiety, fear, unrest.”
As the numbers rolled in, it grew to become clear the race between Mr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga was far tighter than most Kenyans anticipated. Heading into the election on Tuesday, a number of polls confirmed Mr. Odinga with a cushty lead.
After the election, the fee’s official depend was sluggish, as a result of ballot employees needed to transport paper consequence sheets from the 46,229 polling websites to the nationwide counting heart in Nairobi. Then fee employees needed to confirm the papers towards the web database of photographs of the identical sheets.
Those delays meant that by Thursday evening it was turning into clear that the primary indication of a winner would seemingly come from the information media — not the election fee — a politically delicate transfer in a rustic the place the media may be topic to heavy-handed authorities interference.
Felix Odhiambo Owuor, govt director of the Electoral Law and Governance Institute for Africa, a nonprofit that helped draft pointers for the information media’s function within the election, stated in an interview the media teams pulled out to keep away from a tough scenario.
“I think they just decided it was better to wait” for Kenya’s electoral fee “to catch up,” he stated.
Others pointed to direct authorities strain to finish the depend. Three reporters with the Nation Media Group, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate inside issues, stated authorities officers had pressured their editors to cease the tallying as a result of, they have been informed, it was creating confusion among the many public.
On Friday, in an article within the Nation newspaper, Mutuma Mathiu, editor in chief of the Nation Media Group, described what a troublesome activity the tallying had grow to be.
“We are not just tallying figures. We are also trying to keep safe, and open, not bankrupt ourselves, stay out of the clutches of influence groups and provide good, clean data,” he wrote.
In a press release, David Omwoyo, the top of the federal government’s Media Council of Kenya stated that “No one has asked anyone to stop the tallying and projection of the results.”
The solely unofficial tallies have been being carried out by overseas information organizations — the BBC and a joint effort by Reuters and Google. But they have been primarily based on a set of constituency outcomes that, as of midnight on Friday, was solely 75 % full.
That may depart Kenyans ready for the ultimate outcomes, to seek out out who’s their subsequent president, or if the nation is headed for a runoff and should repeat the entire anxious train one month from now.
Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir reported from Eldoret, Kenya.