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In Kenya, dancing, doubt, and sighs of relief as Kenyatta wins presidency

Uhuru Kenyatta got 50.07 percent in an election that stood in sharp contrast to the 2007 vote, which saw deadly outbreaks of violence. His opponent has said he'll challenge the results. 

By Correspondent / March 9, 2013

Kenya's President-Elect Uhuru Kenyatta waves to supporters after leaving the National Election Center in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, March 9. He won 50.07 percent of the vote to be Kenya's next president.

Ben Curtis / AP

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Nairobi, Kenya

Uhuru Kenyatta is poised to become the country's next leader, in an election that has raised concerns about vote-rigging and whose results are being challenged by opponent Raila Odinga

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Supporters of Mr. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president, celebrated his election victory with singing and dancing after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared that the Jubilee Alliance Coalition candidate had won 50.07 percent of the vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff. The election saw a record turnout estimated at 82 percent. Some said it may also be the highest turnout ever in Africa.

Even as the celebrations by supporters got under way, however, Mr. Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) told a news conference that he will immediately challenge the results in the Supreme Court, saying democracy was on trial in Kenya.

“The figures in some of my strongholds were reduced, while those of [Kenyatta's] Jubilee were increased,” said Mr. Odinga, citing as an example Dhiwa Constituency in his stronghold of Nyanza County.

For many ordinary Kenyans, however, the declaration of a winner after a tense week of tallying votes came as a relief, given the backdrop of the previous election in 2007, which erupted into violence that killed more than 1,100 people.  

“The President elect is leader for all, and I think he has been elected through a fair contest. Those who have lost the election should concede. I did not vote for Kenyatta, but I will support him. He is my president,” says John Otieno, a young auto-parts dealer who had traveled to Nairobi from the western city of Kisumu, about 350 kilometers (210 miles) away. “I urge all Kenyans to unite and accept the polls. I want the president to embrace all parts of Kenya, even the regions that did not vote for him." 

 Tabitha Ndigirigi, a longtime trader and CORD supporter, was not so charitable, arguing that there had been fraud in counting the votes.

“The win is not authentic. I challenge it. I think the vote has been stolen,” says Ms. Ndigirigi.

But Peter Mwangi, a security guard in Nairobi who voted for Odinga, says he thinks lodging a suit would be futile. Although he is disappointed, he is joining the celebrations.

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