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Ruto leads the tally in Kenya’s presidential election as tempers rage

Ruto leads the tally in Kenya's presidential election as tempers rage
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NAIROBI, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto has emerged victorious in a close race for the presidency as more riot police were deployed at the national election counting center following scuffles and accusations, according to official results reported by Kenyan media on Sunday party agents.

The uproar underscored the roiling spirit and high tensions in the national counting hall as the country awaits the official results of last Tuesday’s election. There have been lopsided digs online about citizens’ hand-to-hand combat, indicating the rest of the nation is waiting patiently.

In the presidential campaign, officially verified results reported by the Nation media group showed that Ruto received 51% of the vote, ahead of left-leaning opposition leader Raila Odinga, who had 48%.

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Confusion over the vote count in the media and the electoral commission’s slow progress have fueled concerns in Kenya, which is East Africa’s wealthiest and most stable nation but has a history of violence following disputed elections.

Reuters was unable to access the official running vote count for the presidential race on Sunday. A live feed showing the results at the national counting center went missing hours earlier.

When asked about the balance sheet, a spokeswoman for the Reuters commission referred to the live feed. Other election officials said they were unable to provide the information.

Officially verified results from Saturday, with just over a quarter of the votes counted, put Odinga in the lead with 54% of the vote, while Ruto had 45%.

The winner must receive 50% of the votes plus one. The commission has seven days from the vote to select the winners.

A Reuters tally of 263 of 291 preliminary constituency-level results as of Sunday at 1800 GMT showed Ruto at just under 52% and Odinga at the top at 47.5%. Two underage candidates shared less than one percent.

Reuters didn’t include 19 forms in the count because they had no signatures or totals, were illegible, or had other problems.

The provisional count is based on forms that can be revised if discrepancies are found during the official verification process.

The many checks and balances are designed to try to prevent the kind of tampering allegations that provoked violence in 2007, when more than 1,200 people were killed, and 2017, when more than 100 people were killed.

CHAOS IN THE PAYING HALL

Odinga and Ruto are vying to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has served two terms in office. Kenyatta fell out with Ruto after the last election and supported Odinga as president.

Kenyatta leaves power after loading Kenya with debt for expensive infrastructure projects and without tackling the endemic corruption that has eroded all levels of government. The next President will also take on the rapidly rising cost of food and fuel.

Ruto’s strong showing reflects widespread dissatisfaction with Kenyatta’s legacy – even in parts of the country where the president previously won the vote.

A large number of Kenyans also did not vote, saying none of the candidates inspired them.

On Sunday, Ruto’s party member Johnson Sakaja won the governorship of the capital Nairobi, the wealthiest and most populous of the 47 counties.

PAYMENT CENTER TENSIONS

As the close race continued, the party agents at the counting center, known as bomas, became increasingly agitated. Late Saturday, Raila Odinga’s chief agent, Saitabao ole Kanchory, grabbed a microphone and announced, “Bomas of Kenya is a crime scene,” before officers muted his microphone.

Party agents wrestled with each other, the police, and election officials, and once attempted to drag an official outside.

The scenes, which were broadcast on the national news, were met with confusion from Kenyans, who urged their leaders to grow up.

“The reckless behavior of so-called leaders in bomas that can quickly ignite the country must be challenged,” tweeted Alamin Kimathi, a human rights activist. “Let the drama end. Let the process continue.”

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Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; writing from Katharine Houreld; Edited by Frances Kerry and Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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