NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s election commission posted complete results early today showing that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta prevailed in the country’s presidential elections by the slimmest of margins, winning 50.03 percent of the vote.
That result is likely to bring controversy in Kenya and an almost-certain legal challenge from Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Kenyatta needed to break the 50 percent barrier to avoid a runoff with Odinga, but he did so by only 4,099 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast.
Monday’s presidential vote was the first since Kenya’s 2007 election sparked two months of tribal violence after a disputed election win was claimed by President Mwai Kibaki. More than 1,000 people were killed in attacks that included machetes, bows and arrows, and police firearms.
A win by Kenyatta could greatly affect Kenya’s relations with the West. Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in directing some of Kenya’s 2007 postelection violence. His running mate, William Ruto, faces similar charges.
The U.S. has warned of “consequences” if Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, wins, as have several European countries. Britain, which ruled Kenya until the early 1960s, has said it would have only essential contact with the Kenyan government if Kenyatta is president.
Odinga’s camp has indicated legal challenges could be filed. Monday’s presidential vote proceeded mostly peacefully, but the counting process has been stymied by a myriad of break-downs and errors.
The winner was quietly revealed overnight – at about 2:35 a.m. local time.
To win outright, Kenyatta must not only get more than 50 percent of the vote but also must garner at least 25 percent of the vote in 24 out of Kenya’s 47 provinces. Because of the way the election commission announced results, it was difficult to immediately determine if Kenyatta passed that bar.
Diplomats said they believed Odinga was not likely to protest the vote in a manner that would increase the chances of violence, but rather honor his pledge to respect the result and petition the courts with any grievances. Odinga scheduled a news conference for later today.
The Kenyan capital has been sleepy since Monday’s vote for president, but security forces in riot gear took to the streets Friday in regions of the city that could turn tumultuous after results are announced.