Kenyan presidential candidate alleges vote-rigging

As a hand recount of votes from Monday's election continued Thursday, candidate Raila Odinga cried foul, saying the emerging tallies were not accurate.

Sayyid Azim/AP
Kenyans look at morning newspapers a day after the country's presidential election, at a roadside stall in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday. Kenya's presidential election drew millions of eager voters who endured long lines to cast ballots Monday, but tensions over the counting of votes continued to rise Thursday as candidate Raila Odinga alleged that results from the Monday polls were being rigged.

Tensions over the counting of votes in Kenya's presidential election continued to rise Thursday as Prime Minister Raila Odinga's camp alleged that results from the Monday polls were being rigged. 

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr. Odinga’s running mate in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), issued the allegations, contending that the emerging vote tally from a recount that began Wednesday is not accurate. 

"We have evidence the results we're receiving are being doctored,” Mr. Musyoka told a news conference in Nairobi on Thursday. In several counties, he says, the number of votes cast appears to be higher than the number of registered voters. 

The comments come a day after Odinga's rival, Uhuru Kenyatta, charged that British High Commission was meddling in vote-counting efforts. Mr. Kenyatta currently leads the race, with 52.5 percent of votes to Odinga's 42.9 percent. Of 290 constituencies, 141 have been tallied so far in a hand recount that began after an electronic voting system failed Tuesday night. 

Full results are expected Friday and a candidate needs an absolute majority to be elected. If no one receives one, the leading contenders will go to a runoff election next month. 

But Musyoka said CORD was taking the position that the national vote-tallying process lacked integrity and had to be restarted using primary documents from the polling stations. They called on the electoral commission to immediately stop the current tallying. 

The commission, however, says the charges are unfounded.

"It is not true," said Isaack Hassan, chairman of the electoral commission, at a news conference. "We cannot stop tallying because this is a legal process." 

Although Odinga's coalition is calling for calm, tolerance, and peace among Kenyans, the remarks about possible vote fraud have reignited the memories of the bungled 2007 general election, when Kenyan poured onto the streets after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner and Odinga – also a candidate in that contest – said the election had been rigged. Between Dec. 27, 2007, and February 2008, more than 1,000 people died and more than 600,000 were displaced. 

This time around, however, leaders appealed to Kenyans to remain calm and return to their normal lives as the electoral body recounts the votes. But many in and outside the government remain cautious. 

"I am getting scared," says Wambui Gathua, who sells handwoven carpets in Nairobi. "I don't think these statements are good for peace."  

Schools have been closed since last Thursday and are not expected to reopen until March 11. Many bus and taxi operators have chosen to stay off the streets, in part to avoid a replay of 2007, when many vehicles were set aflame or otherwise destroyed in the violent protests. 

"This is raising tensions.... Cars are not refueling as usual," says John Mwangi, a gas station attendant in Nairobi.  

Meanwhile, religious leaders across the country called on the candidates to help keep the peace.

“We urge the two leading contenders to prevail upon their supporters to maintain peace and remain calm. Call them not to celebrate or mourn the results prematurely,” said the Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, in a statement.  

The eight presidential candidates – including both front-runners – have committed in public meetings and prayer rallies that they will accept the results and channel poll-related complaints through the courts.

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