Kenya election 2017: Kenyatta says respect the result

Media captionAnne Soy reports from Nairobi polling station on election day

People are voting in Kenya’s general election amid fears that the result could trigger communal violence.

President Uhuru Kenyatta called for unity, saying he would accept the result and urged rivals to do the same.

Queues at polling stations formed early and some minor stampedes were reported. Kenyan radio said one person was killed in clashes in the southern Kilifi area.

The contest pits Mr Kenyatta against his long-time rival, Raila Odinga, and is seen as too close to call.

Mr Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of Kenya’s founding president, is seeking a second and final term in office. Six other presidential candidates are also on the ballot.

The final week of campaigning has been marred by the murder of a top election official and claims of vote-rigging.

Long, snaking queues

Chief EU observer Marietje Schaake said polling stations were busy and people were eager to cast their vote.

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People began queuing early in the morning and even overnight to cast their votes

“Today is a very important day for Kenyans. We hope these elections will be peaceful, credible and transparent,” she said at Nairobi’s Moi Avenue primary school polling station.

Observers say the leading candidates both avoided inflammatory speeches as polling day drew closer.

In 2007, more than 1,100 Kenyans died and 600,000 were displaced after a disputed election – an outcome neither side wants to see repeated.

This time long queues were seen at some polling stations, and video footage at one showed people injured on the ground after an apparent stampede.

The polls were due to close at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT), but the electoral commission said polling stations would stay open in areas where voting had been hampered by heavy rain.

One of the presidential candidates was unable to get to his polling station because a bridge had washed away in northern Turkana county, according to one newspaper report.

Other problems also emerged. One polling station in four was apparently without mobile phone coverage, meaning that officials would have to drive to the nearest town to send results.

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Mr Kenyatta called on Kenyans to pull the country together

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Mr Odinga has raised fears of vote-rigging

Mr Kenyatta voted at lunchtime in his hometown of Gatundu, north of Nairobi.

“To my competitors, as I have always said, in the event that they lose, let us accept the will of the people. I am willing, myself, to accept the will of the people,” he said in a brief statement.

“Let us pull this country together and let us move forward as one nation.”

Opposition leader Mr Odinga cast his ballot in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.

Speaking outside the voting centre, he told his supporters: “Let’s turn out in large numbers and vote.

“After finishing, in the evening, let’s meet at Uhuru Park [in Nairobi] and wait for the results.”

Testing time ahead

By Alastair Leithead, BBC News, Mathare

So far Kenya’s national elections have been going well, but the queues are long and the voters impatient.

Many arrived in the middle of the night to cast their ballots early and the electronic system is taking quite a while to verify voters.

If fingerprints don’t register, ID card numbers have to be typed in to the electronic tablets and then there’s a manual backup.

The responsibility lies with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to deliver a free and fair election.

The test will come when the polls close, the votes are counted and the results have to be transmitted to the tallying centres.

The presidential race is expected to be close.

Media captionVoters in Kibera, Nairobi, express their hopes for the future

Former US President Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, also called for calm, telling Kenyans that the “choices you make in the coming days can either set Kenya back or bring it together”.

Kenya’s election in numbers:

Media captionKenya elections 2017: ‘Six-piece’ vote explained
  • Six separate ballot papers: For president, national assembly, female representatives, governors, senate and county assemblies
  • 47 parliamentary seats and 16 senate seats reserved for women
  • Eight presidential candidates: President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are favourites
  • Kenyatta beat Odinga in 2013 – their fathers were also political rivals in the 1960s
  • A candidate needs 50% plus one vote for first-round victory
  • More than 14,000 candidates running across the six elections
  • More than 45% of registered voters under 35
  • Some 180,000 security officers on duty nationwide in case of trouble

Eight key things

Vote strains mixed ethnicity marriages

What first-time voters make of it all

View of those behind 2007 poll violence

Your questions answered

To win outright, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, and at least 25% in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

If that threshold is not met, a run-off vote between the top two candidates will be triggered.

First results are not expected before Wednesday, but it could take three days for a winner to emerge.

Fourth-time lucky?

Mr Odinga, 72, has run for president three times and lost each time. President Kenyatta beat him in the last election in 2013, but their rivalry is generations old – their fathers were political opponents in the 1960s.

Mr Kenyatta and his running-mate William Ruto were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles in the bloodshed a decade ago. The case ultimately collapsed due to lack of evidence, and after key witnesses died or disappeared.

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Electoral agents in Nairobi unpack voting materials, as police stand by

Hate speech flyers and rhetorical text messages have been circulating, making Kenyans nervous. Some are stockpiling food and water, while police have prepared emergency first aid kits.

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead says what happens after the election is less about who wins and more about how those who lose take their defeat.

The success of the country’s computerised voting system is key to the process being considered free and fair.

If it fails – as it did in 2013 – the votes will be counted manually and the loser will no doubt challenge the result.

Kenya election 2017: Kenyatta says respect the result

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