Kenya’s opposition declares its presidential candidate the winner, but official tally shows otherwise

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 9:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 9:50am

Kenya’s main opposition coalition claimed victory Thursday in a contentious presidential election and demanded that its candidate, Raila Odinga, be declared the winner, rejecting the official tally that shows him trailing badly.

Odinga was behind by more than 1.4 million votes, according to provisional results released by the country’s election commission with 97 per cent of polling stations reporting. But the opposition professed to have obtained internal commission figures showing that its candidate had defeated the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

There were reports of celebrations in some opposition strongholds. But if Kenyatta is declared the winner, it risks igniting tense protests among Odinga’s supporters in Nairobi’s volatile slum districts and in western parts of the country.

As Kenya faces the prospect of another disputed election, there were fears of a reprise of the ethnic violence that killed an estimated 1,500 people after a similar dispute in 2007.

Kenyan police in running battles with opposition supporters

Sporadic clashes have erupted between police and opposition supporters since Odinga told his followers Wednesday that hackers had manipulated data in the election commission’s computer system.

After years of ethnic tension and public mistrust in Kenya’s elections, an electronic system used to tally the paper votes has become the main bone of contention.

At a news conference Thursday, a senior figure in the opposition National Super Alliance, Musalia Mudavadi, accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of posting results on its website that were at odds with the results contained on its server.

Mudavadi said Odinga had won slightly more than 8 million votes, compared with 7.1 million for Kenyatta.

“The accurate and lawful results in the presidential election is the transmission received from the polling stations and contained in the IEBC servers,” he said.

Mudavadi urged opposition supporters to remain calm, saying the alliance would present evidence of its allegations in court.

Odinga, who on Wednesday had said that the opposition might call on its supporters to stage protests, was present at Thursday’s news conference but did not speak to reporters.

Opposition leaders met with the election commission chairman, Wafula Chebukati, on Thursday to demand that it stop posting “unverified results.”

Chebukati, who has promised to investigate any allegations of fraud, acknowledged that there had been a hacking attack, but said it had failed.

After a hard-fought campaign, international observers praised the commission’s handling of the election and urged Kenyans to give members time to complete their work, which will include checking the electronic results against paper records.

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry, an observer for the Atlanta-based Carter Centre, said Kenyans could rely on the vote tally forms, which were signed by party agents at more than 40,800 polling stations and posted online by the commission, to ensure that the final result was fair.

“It is the paper ballots and the accounting process established by the IEBC that tell the story of this election, not the electronic transmission of those numbers,” Kerry said.

Although he said the allegations of hacking “deserve to be taken seriously,” he urged Kenyans to resolve their differences in court and not in the streets.

“Any candidate’s legitimate evidence of something that happened needs to be judged, but it needs to be judged through the appropriate process,” Kerry said.

The European Union’s observer team said it had seen no evidence of any attempts to manipulate the results, but added that it was not in a position to investigate claims of hacking or electronic manipulation.