Nairobi: Kenya’s election commission named Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of the country’s presidential election with 50.07 percent on Saturday, but his opponent alleged multiple failures in the vote and said Kenya’s democracy was on trial.
Supporters of Kenyatta — a man accused by an international court of helping to orchestrate the vicious violence that marred the nation’s last vote — flooded the streets, celebrating in a parade of red, the campaign’s color.
Less than two hours after the official announcement, Kenyatta’s top opponent, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said the election process experienced multiple failures and that he would petition the Supreme Court.
Odinga called for calm and asked Kenyans to love one another but said he would not concede because he did not believe he had lost.
“I have stated that nothing could have pleased me more if I had lost fairly,” he said, adding: “We have highlighted so many irregularities with the tallying process.”
Kenyatta was immediately afforded the state security that would accompany a president-elect, traveling in a shiny black convoy from the tallying center to his election center. In a speech, he thanked Odinga — “my brother” — for a spirited campaign in an address to the nation, according to prepared remarks.
“My fellow Kenyans, today we celebrate the triumph of democracy, the triumph of peace, the triumph of nationhood,” he said, adding later: “My pledge to you is that as your president I will work on behalf of all citizens regardless of political affiliation. I will honor the will of Kenyans and ensure that my government protects their rights and acts without fear or favor, in the interests of our nation.”
If Kenyatta’s victory holds, the son of Jomo Kenyatta will become the fourth president of Kenya since its independence from British colonial rule in 1963.
Kenyatta’s win could greatly affect Kenya’s relations with the West. The president-elect faces charges at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in directing some of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence. His running mate, William Ruto, faces similar charges.
The United States has warned of “consequences” if Kenyatta wins, as have several European countries. Britain has said it would have only essential contact with the Kenyan government if Kenyatta is president.
A President Kenyatta may have to spend large chunks of his first years in Kenya’s highest office sitting in a court room in The Hague, defending himself against allegations of involvement in the murder, forcible deportation, persecution and rape of supporters of Odinga in the aftermath of the 2007 vote.
Government officials have been working for months to avoid the post-election violence that brought Kenya to the brink of civil war five years ago, when more than 600,000 people were forced from their homes. The election commission Saturday held a dramatic midday televised announcement where officials appealed to Kenyans to accept the results with grace.
“There can be victory without victims,” said Ahmed Issack Hassan, the chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Francis Eshitemi, an Odinga supporter in Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera, said it was clear his candidate had lost in a free and fair election and that he expected him to concede.
“The problem is that Raila doesn’t have the numbers. There were a few irregularities, but the gap between Raila and Uhuru is big,” he said.
Isaac Khayiya, another Odinga supporter, said: “This time we want postelection peace, not war. We will be the ones to suffer if there is violence. For them — Uhuru, Ruto, Odinga — they have security and they are rich.”
The final results showed that Kenyatta won 6,173,433 votes — 50.07 percent — to Odinga’s 5,340,546 — 43.3 percent. More than 12, 330,000 votes were cast, a record turnout of 86 percent registered voters.
Odinga said results from at least five of the 291 constituencies were disputed, though he pledged to accept any ruling made by the Supreme Court.
Kenyatta’s task was not simply to beat Odinga, but to get over the 50 percent mark and avoid a head-to-head runoff. Eight candidates ran for president.