Nairobi: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga rejected early results of a presidential election on Wednesday that showed he was losing to incumbent and long-time rival Uhuru Kenyatta, stoking fears that his disgruntled supporters could take to the streets.
As of 0300 GMT, the election commission website put Kenyatta ahead by 55.1% of votes counted to 44% for Odinga – a margin of nearly 1.4 million ballots with more than 80% of polling stations reported.
Kenyatta, a 55-year-old businessman seeking a second five-year term, had held such a lead since the start of counting after Tuesday’s peaceful vote, the culmination of a hard-fought contest between the heads of Kenya‘s two political dynasties.
But Odinga, a 72-year-old former political prisoner and self-described leftist, rejected the results as “fictitious” and “fake”, lashing out in a late night news conference at which he said his party’s own tally put him ahead.
“We have our projections from our agents which show we are ahead by far,” Odinga said, questioning why published results were not accompanied by scanned copies of forms signed by all party agents in polling stations.
Kenyan law states that where there is a discrepancy between a result on the website and the form, the result on the form will be considered final.
Alleging vote-rigging, he also brought up the unsolved torture and murder of a top election official just over a week before the vote.
“We fear this was exactly the reason Chris Msando was assassinated,” he said.
‘Will of the people’
Odinga’s comments carry ominous echoes of 2007 when he cried foul in an election marred by major irregularities. Around 1,200 people were killed in a campaign of ethnic violence that followed.
Crimes against humanity charges brought by the International Criminal Court against Kenyatta and William Ruto, now his deputy, were withdrawn after witnesses died or disappeared.
Odinga also ran and lost in 2013, but quelled potential clashes by taking his complaints about the widespread failure of electronic voting equipment to court.
Many Odinga supporters said they believed their leader had been robbed of victory during the last two polls and vowed not to allow a third election to be stolen.
“I will accept the outcome only if it’s credible,” said Odinga supporter Joseph Okuoch as he carefully watched vote tallying at his polling station in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold in western Kenya.
There were no signs of trouble in Kisumu as dawn started to break.
The son of Kenya‘s first vice-president, Odinga is an ethnic Luo in the west, an area that has long felt neglected by the central government and resentful of their perceived exclusion from power.
Kenyatta, the son of the first president Jomo Kenyatta, is a Kikuyu, the ethnic group that has supplied three of the four presidents since independence from Britain in 1963.
On Tuesday, Kenyatta called on whoever lost to concede the race.
“In the event that they lose, let us accept the will of the people. I am willing myself to accept the will of the people, so let them too,” Kenyatta said as he voted at the Mutomo Primary School in Gatundu, some 30 km (20 miles) north of the capital.
Later, Odinga also told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he would also accept loss “in the unlikely event that I lost fairly.”
The winner needs one vote more than 50%, and at least a quarter of the vote in 24 of Kenya‘s 47 counties.
In addition to a new president, Kenyans are electing lawmakers and local representatives, the result of a 2010 constitution that devolved power and money to the counties.