NAIROBI, KENYA — FABIANO OYUGA spent six hours standing in line to vote in Kenya's first multiparty ballot in 26 years, offering proof of the value many here put on democratic elections.
"I'm very tired," he said as he finally neared the door of the polling station. Behind him, a line of determined and peaceful voters stretched back about a half-mile.
Voters turned out in mass numbers Tuesday to choose a president, members of Parliament, and local councillors. Seven candidates including President Daniel arap Moi ran for president; about 700 contested the 188 Parliament seats.
Partial results put President Moi well ahead, though many of the earliest tallies were from his strongholds. To avoid a runoff, a presidential candidate must get at least 25 percent of the vote in five of Kenya's eight provinces.
Many voters, angry over economic decline and government corruption, said that a Moi victory could precipitate widescale protests and violence.
One of Moi's opponents in the race, former vice president Mwai Kibaki, appealed to Kenyans to remain peaceful despite what he described as "mass malpractices" at the polls, resulting in delays and confusion. He called the irregularities "deliberate" attempts by the government to discourage opposition voters.
If, indeed, discouragement was the intent behind the delays, the plan did not work. "I was happy to vote, even after six hours," said a voter at a polling station here. "I'd like change: Our economy is deteriorating."
United States Ambassador Smith Hempstone told the Monitor yesterday that he was "pleasantly surprised by how peaceful the election was. The real heroes were the Kenyans who stood in line for hours to cast their votes."
Delays, Ambassador Hempstone said, often were caused by late arrival of ballot boxes, papers, and supplies such as hand stamps. He said it was not clear if the delays were due to "inefficiency" or were a deliberate government attempt to discourage voters in opposition strongholds.
Mary Coughlin, spokeswoman for the Washington-based International Republican Institute, which fielded a team of observers, said IRI would not be able to assess until today, when its teams return to Nairobi, whether the delays occurred in Moi strongholds as well as those of the opposition.
Meanwhile, the slow reporting of results yesterday from the 188 constituencies was "starting to make people nervous," Ms. Coughlin said.
Voting appeared to be following mostly tribal lines; the four main presidential candidates apparently ran strongest in their home areas.
Oginga Odinga, the candidate from the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD)-Kenya, is a Luo. Although his likely choice for vice president, Paul Muite, is a Kikuyu, Mr. Odinga reportedly failed to pull in many Kikuyu votes, reflecting the deep divisions between two of Kenya's largest tribes.
In areas from which no member of the local tribe was running for president, the vote split.
In a predominantly Luhya area, FORD-Asili candidate Kenneth Matiba, a Kikuyu, reportedly was leading Moi, a Kalenjin. But the Luhya, a major tribe, are considered a swing vote in a close election. Many Luhyas are leery of Kikuyu rule and may have preferred to side with Moi.
President Moi counted on holding together a coalition of minority tribes to win reelection to another five years in office. He has been in power since 1978.
"Moi has a very good chance," said Amin Walji, a candidate for Parliament and a member of the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU). "He's from a minority. He has not differentiated between any tribes."
But Moi's critics charge him with stacking government posts with Kalanjin, many of them persons with little education.
"We don't want illiterate people in high places," said a Luo voter outside a polling station here. "What we want now is no more corruption - from the top down," said another Luo voter.
"If Moi wins, there will be a problem," one young man said. "We'll be heading toward economic crisis." Another chimed in: "We'll go to the streets and demonstrate peacefully - but KANU government won't recognize a peaceful protest."
Parliamentary candidate Amin downplayed the risk of widescale violence, saying if Moi wins, as the head of the government in power, he "has the police and Army to [keep] control."