Kenya's presidential election: William Ruto is leading ahead of his rival Raila Odinga
In the tense Kenyan presidential elections, William Ruto scored 51.25% of the votes, exceeding earlier gains for Raila Odinga, who received 48.09%, according to figures from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which tallied results from nearly 50% of constituencies.
The vote comes in the form of a peaceful break after previous elections sparked violence and rigging claims, as the IEBC is under intense pressure to deliver a clean poll and release results by Tuesday.
In fear of another violent spark, riot police were deployed overnight inside the commission's heavily-guarded tallying center in the capital Nairobi after political party members disrupted the process, throwing rigging allegations at each other. The commission's chairman Wafula Chebukati accused party members of delaying the tallying process by bombarding election workers with unnecessary questions.
Blinken calls it a model for Africa
Kenyans are left waiting for results restlessly, with hopes that any disputes over the result are resolved peacefully through legal means. The election is being attentively observed by an international community that views Kenya as a pillar of stability in an unsettled region, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken describing the country's polls "as a model for the continent."
Blinken also tweeted late Saturday on the matter by saying, "We encourage peace and patience as the vote tallying continues from the August 9 elections."
The poll pitted Odinga, a veteran opposition leader now supported by the ruling party, against Ruto, who was widely expected to succeed former President Uhuru Kenyatta until his boss joined hands with former foe Odinga in a dramatic shift of political alliances.
Emotional scar after 2017 elections
Officials in the East African country are still struggling to revive the economy, a key theme throughout the campaign, after the consecutive shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict which sent food and fuel costs skyrocketing, with citizens taking to the streets to call on leaders to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
The attendance was about 65%, as opposed to the 78% recorded in 2017; some observers are calling this the mirroring of the discontent with the political elite among young people.
The winner of the presidential race would need to secure 50% plus one vote and a minimum of a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya's 47 counties. If the winning candidate does not achieve that, the country will be forced to go through a second round within 30 days of the original vote.