NAIROBI, Kenya — The Latest on Kenya’s elections (all times local):
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta led challenger Raila Odinga by a significant margin in partial election results, Kenya’s election commission said early Wednesday.
The commission’s website showed Kenyatta with just over 55 percent and opposition leader Odinga with nearly 44 percent after votes were counted from more than two-thirds of the 40,833 polling stations. However, the commission did not release information about which constituencies had been counted, so it was unclear whether Kenyatta strongholds or opposition centers, or some combination, had yet to be tallied.
The election commission earlier tweeted that balloting Tuesday concluded “with minimal hitches.”
Authorities hope to avoid the post-election violence of a decade ago when ethnic divisions fueled unrest that killed more than 1,000 people.
Preliminary results show Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead with 55.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election while challenger Raila Odinga has 43.9 percent.
Votes from nearly one-quarter of 40,883 polling stations have been counted, according to Kenya’s election commission.
By law, election officials have up to a week to announce results. Many analysts believe the outcome of the presidential race will be declared far sooner, possibly within one or two days.
Both police and the election commission say the vote was largely calm.
Vote-counting has begun following Kenya’s election, which pits President Uhuru Kenyatta against opposition leader Raila Odinga and features contests for more than 1,800 other elected positions down to the county level.
On Tuesday evening, votes from nearly 5 percent of the more than 40,000 polling stations had been counted in the presidential race. The results were too few to indicate a clear trend.
Kenya has nearly 20 million registered voters out of a population of more than 40 million.
Officials say residents of Kenya’s coastal Lamu County came out to vote in large numbers despite the threat of an Islamic extremist attack which delayed the start of the voting process.
The Somalia-based rebel group, al-Shabab, has been operating in the dense Boni Forest in Lamu despite months of operations by the military and police to flush them out. The insurgents had urged Lamu residents not to vote and threatened to disrupt the elections, increasing attacks ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The group is blamed for bombing an electricity pylon that caused a day-long blackout the day before the election.
“We will not give al-Shabab the satisfaction by not voting,” said Jane Sambay, who was at her polling station by 7 a.m. Voting was delayed by two hours and started at 8 a.m.
Kenya’s security forces took special measures to provide security to voters. The military provided escorts from voters’ homes to the polling stations and back in the Pandanguo area, where al-Shabab recently beheaded nine people.
Al-Shabab has carried out more than 100 attacks in Kenya saying they are revenge for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight the militants in 2011.
A high-ranking member of Kenya’s main opposition says the coalition is largely impressed by the work of the electoral commission officers during voting in the country’s hotly contested general elections.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, a leader of the National Super Alliance, largely commended the professionalism of the security agencies during voting Tuesday although he criticized a few who he said were openly campaigning for the ruling Jubilee Party.
Mudavadi said the opposition is concerned that some of their agents were not allowed into polling centers to scrutinize voting but said the electoral commission cooperated to try to resolve the issue.
He said the opposition is also concerned about names of voters missing on the register, saying that too many opposition voters were disenfranchised. He said voter bribery was noted in some polling stations and urged authorities to take action.
Kenya’s election commission says three polling stations in the Laikipia area were “affected by insecurity” during Tuesday’s national vote.
The commission has not provided details on the unrest in the northern part of Laikipia County, but says security forces restored order and polling resumed.
For more than a year now, farms and homes in Laikipia have been under siege from semi-nomadic herders who say a widespread drought is making them desperate to find grazing land for their animals. Some farmers believe the land invasions were incited by politicians who wanted to displace thousands of farmers, both black and white, as part of a plan to change voter demographics and help win local elections.
Kenya’s electoral board, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, says that the polls have closed after voters turned out in large numbers in Kenya’s hotly contested elections. The electoral board’s statement said that all voters who are already in line will be permitted to vote. The announcement said voting will be extended in the Baringo and Turkana areas because polls opened late because of heavy rains. It said voting will also be extended in centers that started late or had technical difficulties.
Tonkei Ole Sipala isn’t sure how old he is, but he thinks he’s about 75. The Kenyan is a respected elder of his Maasai community, but he still had to walk several kilometers (miles) in a remote part of Kajiado County to cast his vote in the national election.
“I just want all people voting, to vote peacefully and go home. When the results come out we will support the person who will win,” says Ole Sipala, who remembered voting for the first time in the early 1960s as Kenya secured independence from British colonial rule.
Tokoyian Ole Siamon, a mother of six who was decked out in traditional beads while waiting to vote, said she doesn’t want any fighting if Kenya’s vote is disputed.
The Maasais are mostly pastoralists, relying on cows for their livelihood. Climate change and severe droughts along with rapid population growth have made life more difficult for the Maasais in recent years.
In Kenya’s Kisumu city, voters have different views about the possibility of violence if there is a dispute over the results of the presidential election.
“If the elections are not fair, if there was rigging, people will definitely go to the streets,” said Sophia Ajwang, a 29-year-old student.
However, Moses Otieno, a 33-year-old businessman, predicted that Kenyans don’t want to see the kind of deadly, ethnic-based violence that erupted after the 2007 vote.
“We’ve learned a lot in the past, so we don’t want such repetition in this election,” Otieno said. “That’s why we will accept whatever outcome it is.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is observing Kenya’s elections, is calling for patience and says eventual vote-counting will be critical to the success of the process.
“There are a lot of people in line, and it is going to take some time, and we are going to need to be very patient,” said Kerry, chief election observer for The Carter Center. “But obviously, the transition from voting to counting is going to be critical and there is a process in place for that too. That’s why it is too early for us to be drawing any kinds of conclusions, but we will see where it goes.”
Kerry said that his team will be talking to election officials and other observers and that “over the course of the next day and a half, two days, solid judgments will begin to be made.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has voted in his birthplace of Gatundu, north of Nairobi.
Kenyans on Tuesday started voting in a fiercely contested election that pits Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga. This East Africa economic hub is known known for its relative, long-term stability as well as vying ethnic allegiances that shadow its democracy.
“I feel good. I feel positive because we ran a positive campaign,” Kenyatta said after casting his vote. He urged Kenyans to vote peacefully and go home to await the results. He was accompanied by his wife, Margaret, his mother and two of his three children.
“Peace. Peace. Peace,” said Kenyatta, who seeks a second and final term in office. “I say peace because Kenya was here before and it will be here after today.”
Raila Odinga, the main opposition challenger in Kenya’s tightly-contested election, has voted.
Odinga, 72, voted in the poor area of Kibera, an opposition stronghold in the capital, Nairobi, and was surrounded by well-wishers. He urged supporters to gather on Wednesday in a downtown park for what he predicted would be a celebration.
“Uhuru must go,” chanted some in the crowd, referring to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who seeks a second term in office.
A Kenyan legislator who supports Raila Odinga, the main opposition leader running for president, says he is worried about some flaws in the voting process in Kenya’s hotly contested elections.
Kenyan are voting Tuesday in the elections pitting Odinga against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We hope the counting process will be as good as the voting and the results will reflect the true winner,” said Ken Okoth, legislator for the Kibera constituency in Nairobi.
“There is concern over voter registration where people who corrected mistakes of their details cannot find their names on the list. I estimate between 500 and 1,000 people are affected by this,” he said.
Okoth called for vigilance, saying it brings credibility to the elections.
An international election observer says Kenyans are voting with enthusiasm and that the process is going well.
John Mahama, chief election observer for the Commonwealth and former president of Ghana, said early Tuesday that he is impressed by the voter turnout.
“There have been no incidents so far,” Mahama said. “Voting seems to be going smoothly and I think it is a good sign for Kenyan democracy.”
Kenya has 20 million registered voters out of a population of more than 40 million people. They are voting in a fiercely contested election that pits President Uhuru Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga.
A 102-year-old woman believed to be one of Kenya’s oldest citizens said she has voted for incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta.
Lydia Gathoni voted in Kenyatta’s home town, Gatundu, north of Nairobi.
“I have come here to vote because good leadership comes from God. I want to vote because I believe God has kept me alive for so many years,” said Gathoni.
Kenyans on Tuesday started voting in an election that pits Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga in this East African economic hub known for its relative, long-term stability as well as the ethnic allegiances that shadow its democracy.
Election officials say the winner of Kenya’s presidential race must get more than 50 percent of the votes as well as one-quarter or more votes in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties. If the front-runner falls short of those benchmarks, the two top contenders will contest a run-off vote.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga also faced off in the 2013 election. Kenyatta won by a thin margin, with just over 50 percent of the vote; Odinga alleged vote-tampering and took his case to Kenya’s highest court, which ruled in Kenyatta’s favor by validating the results.
Like many Kenyan voters, 34-year-old Fred Nyakundi arrived at a polling station several hours before it opened and waited in line in the dark before casting his vote.
“The exercise is very slow, but I am happy with the service I got,” said Nyakundi, who owns a carpentry business in Nairobi. “I am going home to open the business and wait for results.”
Another voter, 41-year-old Fatuma Ramadhan, thought the voting procedure was speedy. She was able to vote at 6 a.m., when polling stations opened, and then opened her restaurant to serve breakfast to other voters.
Early voters went to the polls across the country at sunrise. Election officials say the polls will close at 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. Eastern Time, 14:00GMT) Vote counting will start immediately and results are expected within 24 to 48 hours, although authorities have up to a week to deliver official, final results.
Kenyans are voting in an election that pits President Uhuru Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga in an East African economic hub known as much for its relative, long-term stability as the ethnic allegiances that shadow its democracy.
A key concern after polls opened Tuesday was whether Kenya would echo its 2013 election, a mostly peaceful affair despite opposition allegations of vote-tampering, or the 2007 election, which led to violence fueled by ethnic divisions that killed more than 1,000 people.
Reaction to the result could partly depend on the performance of Kenya’s electoral commission, which will collect vote counts from more than 40,000 polling stations. Kenya has nearly 20 million registered voters.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is among thousands of observers who are monitoring the election.
AP writers Chris Torchia and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this series.