Kenya’s immediate fate rests on whether opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga presses his claim that initial tallies from this week’s election were rigged and calls on his supporters to protest the announcement of final results expected later on Friday today.
The Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission will declare the outcome of the vote at 2 p.m. in the capital, Nairobi, spokesman Andrew Limo said in a mobile-phone text message. The authority’s chairman slammed the opposition’s figures showing Odinga won the race as “plainly falsified,” with preliminary data on its website showing incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta has a commanding lead.
“It’s clear what the reaction from former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be if President Kenyatta is announced the winner,” said Ahmed Salim, vice president at research firm Teneo Strategy in Dubai. “We’ve already seen a strong challenge to the preliminary results and I expect there to be more accusations of fraud and manipulation. The question is whether this will be escalated to the courts or the streets.”
Odinga, 72, and Kenyatta, 55, are vying to lead a country that’s the world’s largest exporter of black tea and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and General Electric Co. The opposition’s dispute over the results sets the stage for a repeat of the election-related violence that has stalked Kenya since it became a multiparty democracy in 1991. In the worst outbreak, ethnic clashes left at least 1,100 people dead after a disputed 2007 vote.
Financial markets have shrugged off the prospects of a disputed result, with the FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index of stocks advancing for a fourth straight day on Friday. The yield on the nation’s 10-year Eurobonds and the shilling were little changed.
The normally bustling streets of Nairobi, the capital and business hub of East Africa’s biggest economy, have been largely deserted since election day as residents stayed home bracing for trouble and security forces deployed in the city center.
“Kenya is at a standstill,” Kiprono Kittony, chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said by phone on Friday. “We are hoping there will be a conclusion to this today and for people to be able to go back and start earning their livelihoods because this era of suspense is very, very devastating economically.”
With preliminary results tallied from all but 341 of the nation’s 40,883 polling stations, Kenyatta has 8.17 million votes, compared with 6.76 million for Odinga, according to the IEBC’s website. Candidates need a simple majority along with a quarter of the votes in half of Kenya’s 47 counties to secure victory.
Odinga described the preliminary results as “fake” and said hackers gained access to the election computer system by using the identity of the commission’s technology manager who was murdered in late July. IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati said on Thursday that hackers tried and failed to breach the voting system.
Odinga’s main support bases include the slums around Nairobi and the western region bordering on Lake Victoria — both areas where violence occurred after the disputed 2007 vote — along with the coastal region around the main port of Mombasa.