But already there are signs that the results could be placed in doubt. Kenya’s electoral commission said more than 300,000 “spoiled ballots” were tossed away because they did not follow election guidelines. Odinga’s supporters demanded that the commission consider the rejected ballots, which could prevent Kenyatta from winning more than 50 percent of the vote, required by Kenya’s constitution to avoid a run-off scheduled for April.
Late Tuesday night, the electoral commission’s chairman announced that that the rejected ballots will be counted in the overall vote total, making it highly likely that a run-off election between Kenyatta and Odinga will take place. Adding to the concerns were delays in the tallying of votes due to breakdowns in equipment and other issues.
William Ruto, Kenyatta’s running mate, reportedly blamed western powers for pressuring the electoral commission on its decision to include the rejected ballots. He told the Standard Newspaper, a respected local daily, that the decision “is meant to deny us a first-round win.”
A heavy police and military presence remained in Nairobi and in other parts of the nation. Public demonstrations have been banned out of concern that ethnic violence could erupt, particularly in Nairobi’s slums, the wellspring of chaos in Kenya’s previous disputed elections five years ago.
The election is the most complex in Kenya’s history, with citizens voting simultaneously for presidential, provincial and local candidates, including women’s representatives and county senators. The presidential race alone had eight candidates. A change in the election rules meant that voters had to cast six ballots in separate boxes for national and local races, leading to many “spoiled votes,” according to Isaak Hassan, chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
The commission expects to have a preliminary result by Wednesday in the presidential race. Hassan cautioned the public Tuesday that thousands of polling stations had yet to release results. And Odinga’s supporters said many of their strongholds appeared to be slower in reporting returns.
“Nobody should celebrate; nobody should complain,” said Hassan, whose comments were televised. “We therefore continue to appeal for patience from the public, the political parties, as well as the candidates.”
In Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections, Odinga declared that he was cheated out of the presidency, triggering an explosion of ethnic violence that killed more than 1,000 Kenyans and splintered the country.