Kenyans vote in neck-and-neck presidential election

Kenyans went to the polls on Tuesday to vote for one of four presidential candidates as President Uhuru Kenyatta steps down after his second term. Voter turnout at 12 noon was at 30 percent, as 6.5 million voters went to cast their ballots.

Updated at 4pm Kenya time

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that 200 biometric kits had failed at polling stations.

The polls officially opened at 06:00 across Kenya with a few glitches and apparently low turnout.

Former prime minister and veteran politician Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja coalition is neck-and-neck in the polls in the race for the presidency against William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance, the vice president.

In the Kenya system, a candidate must get over 50 percent of the vote and at least 25 percent of the vote in a minimum of 24 of the 47 counties.

The other two candidates, David Mwaure of the Agano Party and George Wajackoya of the Roots Party of Kenya, are not expected to get a large percentage of the vote, but their participation could push the vote into a second round.

Odinga was met with great fanfare in Kibera, the major informal settlement in Nairobi on Tuesday morning, as thousands came out to jog his car as he entered Old Kibra Primary school, shouting and blowing whistles, one of the symbols of his movement .

Ruto voted at his polling station in Sugoi, in the Rift Valley, just before 6am because he said he had committed to be there at that time.

Storming the gates

At Moi Primary School in Nairobi’s central business district, voters bundled up against the cold and waited in line to vote at one of the eight polling stations.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chief observer for the East Africa Commission, watched as election workers opened the ballot boxes.

Many of those who vote at this station work in the surrounding hotels and businesses. They lined up early to go back to work even though it is an official holiday.

Richard Makundi, a hotel chef, was at the front of the queue. He came at 2am so he could go back to work.

Inside the school, a poll worker announced that the polls were open at 06.11, but the police who were present did not open the gate. After much shouting, voters stormed the gates at 06:24 and ran towards their polling stations.

Brian Ngesa was queuing at 4am, but after voters rushed in, he got to the front of the queue.

“I feel good after voting,” he said, showing the inked pinky.

Voters will mark their ballots for six candidates: President, Governor, Senator, Member of Parliament, Woman Representative and County Representative.

However, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced on Monday evening that it had suspended the gubernatorial elections in both Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, and in Kakamega.

It also suspended voting for MPs in Kacheliba and Pokot South. All were due to confusion of ballots and misprinted ballots.

Error in the system

With 22 million Kenyans registered to vote, the IEBC sought to create a more streamlined electoral process by posting the names of registered voters a week before, with which line they would stand.

The lines are alphabetical by first name.

Voter Hassan Gore stood guard at Old Kibra Elementary school in Kibera, Kenya’s largest informal settlement, volunteering to help people who couldn’t find their lines.

“There have been problems when people queue up, go into the polling station and then realize they’re in the wrong queue,” he says.

Kibera voter Rahema Marjani was frustrated because she could not find her name on the posted voter list and had been at the polling station since 6am.

“I’m standing in line and hoping to vote. The time I spent here I could have made ugali for my children and washed some clothes to earn money,” she said.

Pauline Atieno, who arrived at 5:00 a.m., had difficulty reading the list.

“The names are so small I couldn’t see mine,” she said.

The voter gives the poll worker their voter card and places their thumb on a biometric Kenya Integrated Election Management System (kiems) tablet, which will pull up the voter’s information and photo.

After verifying the person with the kiems tablet, the voter receives a ballot paper.

Some voters who work with their hands have difficult to read thumbprints. A mason who went to vote was asked to wash his hands, but in the end the poll manager had to go back to the printed voting register to get the person to vote.

Candidate Wajackoya faced a voting setback after the kiems tablet failed to read his fingerprint and his polling station in Matungu, Western Kenya, did not have the manual voter list. He was able to cut a few hours later, but was angry at the delay.

The IEBC ruled that polling stations with kiems problems could use the manual paper voter register.

In the afternoon, a pollster in the middle-class South B area of ​​Nairobi who did not want to be identified said there was some confusion over the use of the manual register.

Short queues, poor attendance in the morning

The IEBC also stipulated that a maximum of 700 voters vote per polling station to ensure short waiting times. But this morning’s voter turnout was poor compared to previous elections.

“The 2017 election, there were many people, but this is the few. I am so surprised,” said Hardly Liyengwa, who voted early and made the observation.

Local press reported that a polling station in Ruiru, Kiamu County, central Kenya, had not had a single voter by 10am.

Although election day is an official holiday, those working said they would go in the afternoon to avoid the long queues.

“I leave at 2pm,” said Simon Michael Kuria, 64, a newspaper seller near the Yahya Center in Nairobi.

“I’m old so I can’t stand for long, but I’ve been voting since 1979 and I want to be there,” he said.

The polling stations offer concessions for the elderly, sick and pregnant.

There were fewer voters in the afternoon, and those who waited for two hours under the sun said they were tired and hungry after voting.

Sheila Kavere voted on the ‘S’ line at a polling station in Sputh B and said the queue was fast, while her neighbor Mary Lynette on the ‘M’ line said she was very dizzy after waiting in the hot sun to vote .

And some voters don’t have the means to get to the polls.

“I’m registered to vote but can’t go because I don’t have transport,” said Nelson Kimwere, a bodaboda (motorcycle) taxi driver. He could not get to Muranga, outside Nairobi, because he had to take a bus.

“I am so ashamed that my voice is lost,” he said in despair.

Youth voter apathy has been an issue after the IEBC voted on an increase in registered voters but a drop in people registering under the age of 35.

On Naivasha road in Nairobi, Kevin Mudonga (25) sells vinyl fabric. He is registered to vote, but will not vote.

“I know them, but they don’t know me,” he said. “I don’t like any of them. Even if you vote they don’t care about you, he added.

The polling stations close at 17.00, and after the manual count at the polling station, the results will be transmitted electronically for the central vote count.

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