Bloomberg News

Kenya Vote Count Shifts to Hand-Tallying as Kenyatta Holds Lead

March 06, 2013

Kenya’s electoral commission began the final physical counting of votes in a presidential race led by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces International Criminal Court charges of crimes against humanity.

Kenyatta has 492,220 votes to Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s 375,299 out of the 24 constituencies for which final results have been announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The electoral body opted to announce the final returns, which by law must be physically delivered and presented, after the electronic system to transmit provisional data failed, IEBC Chairman Isaack Hassan said.

“Early on Friday, we should be able to conclude this exercise,” he told reporters today in Nairobi, the capital. “If there are any problems or delays, remember that we can still go on to Monday.”

The election is the first since fraud allegations by Odinga’s party after a December 2007 vote spawned two months of violence that killed 1,100 people and left 350,000 homeless. Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy and the regional hub for companies including Google Inc. (GOOG:US) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)

Kenyatta had 53 percent of the vote with ballots from more than two-fifths of polling stations, while Odinga had 42 percent, according to provisional data on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s website.

Shilling Slump

The shilling headed for its biggest decline in more than a year as investors became “jittery” over the slow pace of results, said NIC Bank Ltd. (NICB), a Nairobi-based lender. The currency slid 1.4 percent to 86.75 per dollar by 9:01 p.m. in Nairobi, poised for its biggest drop since Jan. 4, 2012.

Shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange gained for a sixth day, extending the bourse’s All Share index advance to 15.2 percent this year. Foreign investors accounted for almost half of all share trading in 2012 from about 10 percent five years earlier. Turmoil after the last election triggered an 8.5 percent plunge in the Kenyan shilling and cut economic growth to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent in 2007.

Kenyatta, the 51-year-old son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, is facing trial at the International Criminal Court for orchestrating violence after the last elections. He is running with his one-time political rival William Ruto, a former Cabinet minister who has also been indicted by The Hague-based court. Both deny the charges.

Odinga, 68 and the son of Kenya’s first vice president, lost in 1997 and 2007, when he accused outgoing President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote. It sparked attacks against members and allies of Kibaki’s Kikuyu community and led to retaliation against Odinga’s Luo supporters.

Rejected Ballots

“The concern among Kenyans right now chiefly is whether results can actually be trusted after all these system failures,” Tom Ocholla, a politics professor at the University of Nairobi, said by phone. “It may be hard for the losing side to accept the results.”

The commission has so far excluded 341,140 rejected votes from the total of votes cast. The IEBC has asked for an opinion from Attorney General Githu Muigai as to whether they should be included, IEBC Chief Executive Officer James Oswago said today by phone.

Odinga’s Coalition for Reform and Democracy wants the spoiled ballots counted as votes cast, Chairman Franklin Bett told reporters March 5. That may mean Kenyatta is unable to secure more than 50 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff, Bett said. A candidate must get that majority and 25 percent of support in half the 47 counties to win outright.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Coalition accused the U.K. of trying to garner support for the inclusion of rejected ballots, according to an e-mailed statement today.

Credible, Transparent

Claims that the U.K. has a position on the rejected ballots are “unhelpful and wrong,” Christian Turner, the British high commissioner in Kenya, said on his Twitter account.

The African Union’s chief observer, Joaquim Chissano, said the vote, which had more than 70 percent turnout, was “credible and transparent.” The European Union urged Kenyans to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere” pending the announcement of final results, chief observer Alojz Peterle told reporters in Nairobi today.

Aside from the president, voters chose 290 lawmakers as well as governors, women’s representatives and senators for 47 counties and 1,450 delegates for county assemblies. Kenya enacted a constitution in 2010 that created a devolved government to help share resources and power more equitably.

The country is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and supplies a third of the flowers traded in Europe. Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) last year found the country’s first crude deposits. The economy may grow as much as 6 percent this year, from about 5 percent last year, provided no serious violence follows the elections, according to the International Monetary Fund.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net; Johnstone Ole Turana in Nairobi at jturana@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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