NAIROBI — Voting is coming to a close in Kenya after millions of voters braved long lines and technical delays Monday to cast ballots in the general elections. .
Kenyans are voting for the country’s fourth president and a host of other elected positions, including governors, senators and members of parliament.
It is the first presidential election since the disputed vote in 2007. Inter-ethnic fighting following that election killed more than 1,100 people and displaced 600,000 more.
Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta faces trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of helping to orchestrate the violence.
After voting in his home constituency of Gatundu on Monday, Kenyatta said this election is about peace.
“Any issues that one may have, there is due process, there are the courts and everything else, which we should follow as opposed to inciting our supporters one way or the other," he said. "Kenya will have a leader and that leader will be the leader of 40 million Kenyans, those who support it and those who don't.”
Meantime, Kenyan police say several officers were killed in Coast Province in early-morning attacks before polls opened. Police have blamed gangs from the separatist Mombasa Republican Council.
“Very unfortunate, very regrettable, something that we condemn in the strongest terms possible, these heinous acts of aggression at a time when Kenyans are engaged in a very historic exercise," said Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also running for president. "I am sure that our forces will apprehend those forces of darkness and bring them to book."
Odinga and Kenyatta are virtually tied in recent public opinion polls. If no candidate wins the election in the first round, there will be a run-off vote in April.
Voting Monday was slowed by massive voter turnout and technical problems with electronic systems. The electoral commission said it has extended voting hours at stations that opened late.
Despite the hiccups, election observers praised the relatively smooth and transparent conduct of the vote.
Peter Alingo with the Kenya-based Elections Observation Group said attention must now turn to vote counting, which will commence when all the polls have closed.
“So the next coming 24- 48 hours are going to be very very crucial, especially for Kenyans. Because that is where anxiety levels are likely to rise, and that is where tension is likely to be generated,” said Alingo.
Voting results will be transmitted from local counting centers to the national elections center in Nairobi through a mobile phone system.
The electoral commission has up to seven days to announce the results, but is expected to name the winners of the presidential race within 48 hours.
By Gabe Joselow
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