06 March, 2013

Kenya elections: Row over spoiled votes

Kenya elections: Row over spoiled votes

There is growing anxiety about the delay in declaring the presidential winner
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Kenya Elections
Voting snapshots
Vote in pictures
'We've waited five years'
Mapping the divides

A row has broken out in Kenya over whether spoiled ballots should be included in the presidential vote count following tightly contested polls.

The coalition of candidate Uhuru Kenyatta accused the UK of playing a "shadowy" role by trying to deny him outright victory in Monday's vote.

The UK denied the allegation.

There have been severe delays in counting as the electronic system has crashed. Early results put Mr Kenyatta ahead of his rival Raila Odinga.
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The Jubilee alliance is deeply concerned about the shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya's election"Charity NgiluJubilee Alliance official

On Tuesday, the election commission said the rejected votes would be included in the final tally - which could determine whether there is a presidential run-off.

So far about 6% of the total votes counted are spoilt ballots - well over double the number of votes cast for the third-placed candidate, Musailia Mudavadi.

With provisional results in from more than 40% of polling stations earlier on Wednesday, Mr Odinga had 42% of the vote compared with Mr Kenyatta's 53%.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence which broke out in 2007-08 after Mr Odinga claimed he had been cheated of victory by supporters of President Mwai Kibaki, who is stepping down after two terms in office.

Mr Kenyatta is due to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) next month after he was accused of fuelling the violence to increase Mr Kibaki's chances of staying in power.

He says the trial is politically motivated and he will clear his name in court.'Military influx'

In the run-up to the election, the European Union (EU) said it would only have limited contact with a president who faced trial at the ICC, while US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson warned Kenyan voters that "choices have consequences".

"The Jubilee coalition is deeply concerned about the shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya's election," said Charity Ngilu, a senior member of Mr Kenyatta's coalition.
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Raila Odinga vs Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta
Son of Kenya's first President Jomo Kenyatta
Due to stand trial at ICC in April accused of organising violence in last election
His running mate, William Ruto, also accused
Both deny the charges
From Kikuyu ethnic group - Kenya's largest at 22% of population and powerful economically
Kikuyus and Ruto's Kalenjin community saw fierce clashes after 2007 poll
Currently deputy prime minister

Raila Odinga
Son of first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
Distant relative of Barack Obama
Believes he was cheated of victory in last election
From Luo community in western Kenya - 11% of population.
Some Luos feel they have been marginalised by central government
Third time running for president
Currently prime minister under power-sharing deal to end violence last time
Profile: Uhuru Kenyatta
Profile: Raila Odinga

"The British High Commissioner [has] been canvassing to have rejected votes tallied in an attempt to deny the Jubilee coalition outright victory."

The Jubilee coalition also claimed there had been an "abnormally high influx of British military personnel in the country which began around voting day".

The UK Foreign Office said claims of British interference were "entirely false and misleading''.

"We have always said that this election is a choice for Kenyans alone to decide," it added.

UK soldiers in Kenya were part of a training programme planned nine months ago and was "completely unrelated" to the elections, the Foreign Office said.

Meanwhile, counting has slowed down because it is now being done manually after the electronic system broke down.

Election commission deputy chair Lilian Mahirie told the BBC it was not clear why the system had crashed. Hacking could not be ruled out, she added.

Its website stopped working on Tuesday evening.

Returning officers were ordered to physically deliver paper copies of their constituency's tallies to the counting centre in the capital.

Some electoral officials have had to drive hundreds of kilometres to do this.

At about 13:00 local time, returning officers from only 53 of the 290 constituencies had arrived and the election commission said it would announce results from constituencies as they were ready.

The BBC's Solomon Mugera in Nairobi says the issue of spoiled ballots has become a major bone of contention, and the election commission would take a final decision about what to do with them once all votes are counted.

If no agreement is reached, one of the presidential candidates is bound to mount a legal challenge, he says.

One of the reasons why there were so many spoiled votes is that Kenyans had, for the first time, six ballots, which may have caused confusion.

Among the votes cast were for members of parliament and senators, county governors and members of the newly formed county assembly.

A possible compromise would be to include those ballots that had been put in the wrong box - for instance, in the parliamentary box rather than the presidential box - while excluding other types of spoiled ballot papers, our correspondent says.

Kenyans are becoming increasingly anxious about the delay in finalising the results, our correspondent says.

Some businesses and schools across the country have remained shut since Monday's election, he says.

This has led to a shortage of goods, pushing up the prices of basic foodstuff in areas such as Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi and a stronghold of Mr Odinga, he adds.

The winning candidate must get more than 50% of the total votes cast and at least 25% of votes in half of the 47 counties.

If there is no clear winner, a second round of voting will take place, probably on 11 April.

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