NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15 – Kenyans’ long wait to know their fifth President enters the final homestretch as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) prepares to declare the winner of Tuesday’s hotly contested presidential election.
Anxiety has gripped the nation ahead of the release of the results that the two leading presidential contenders Raila Odinga of Azimio La Umoja and William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are neck and neck.
The focus now shifts to the IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati – the Presidential Returning Officer who is the only one mandated to declare the winner in a presidential election.
Constitutionally, the Commission has until Tuesday to declare the winner of the presidential contest.
The unveiling of the presidential winner will take place at the Bomas of Kenya – the Commission’s national tallying center.
By Monday 4.45 am, the Commission had verified and relayed results from 248 constituencies out of the 291.
Sources at the commission said Chebukati might pull a surprise and announce the results on Monday if the results verification exercise concludes on time.
The possibility, however, would be heavily pegged on the availability of time as Chebukati is on record saying, “I will only declare the results in broad daylight and not at night.”
The long wait for the results is Kenya’s first in her history of elections, after the Supreme Court while handling a presidential petition in 2017 in the affirmed that the validation exercise is mandatory before making the final declaration.
The delay in releasing the results has fueled disinformation among Kenyans who have resorted to sharing unverified results on social media platforms.
A section of leaders allied to Odinga and Ruto declared that their candidates had won the presidency.
The ongoing verification and tallying of results has been marred by counter accusations of vote rigging, which the Commission said had delayed them in releasing the results.
On Saturday, the Commission was forced to deploy anti-riot police officers at the Bomas tallying hall after Azimio and UDA agents turned rowdy.
The Catholic church on Sunday asked for “patience and civility” and urged the leading candidates to show “restraint and statesmanship” as anxiety grows.
Odinga and Ruto have since pledged to maintain calm, with the memory of the 2007-08 and 2017 post-poll violence still fresh for many Kenyans.
“We have voted peacefully, we have gone through this process peacefully, and it’s my prayer that we end this process peacefully,” Ruto said at a church service on Sunday.
Speaking at a separate service, Odinga recited the opening lines of the Peace Prayer of St Francis and said: “I want to become an instrument to bring peace, to heal, to unite and keep the hope alive in our country.”
Kenyans voted in six elections, choosing a new president, senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives, and some 1,500 county officials.
IEBC had projected that some 15 million voters participated in Tuesday’s polls, equating to about 65 percent.
Lawyer David Mwaure – one of the four presidential candidates, conceded on Sunday and backed Ruto’s bid.
In contrast, the other candidate, George Wajackoyah of Roots Party, is still hopeful that he will “win” the presidency.
The winner of the presidential race needs to secure 50 percent plus one vote and at least a quarter of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.
If neither Odinga nor Ruto gets over the threshold, a run-off must be held within 30 days of the original election, which would be a first in Kenyan history.
Any challenge to the results must be made within seven days to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body.
The court has a 14-day deadline to issue a ruling, and if it orders an annulment, a new vote must be held within 60 days.
If no candidate files a petition, the winner takes office two weeks after the final results are announced.
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