UKTN crowded radios and televisions on Thursday, increasingly fearful of news about who their next president will be, two days after the vote ended.
The East African country’s Election Commission (IEBC) has not released a running count of the results or said when it plans to announce the winner, but unofficial and sometimes conflicting media counts show a blood-curdling race.
Veteran opposition leader and former political prisoner Raila Odinga, 77, makes his fifth stab in the presidency. He is neck and neck with outgoing Vice President William Ruto, 55.
Kenyan media is collecting results from images of forms that the commission of more than 46,000 polling stations has uploaded to its website, a mammoth task that means their numbers differ and fall far short of the amount of raw data available.
Amid concerns that those differences could lead to claims of manipulation, which have led to deadly violence after recent votes, many are urging their fellow citizens – after a largely peaceful election – to wait patiently for the official results.
Outside a butcher shop in the western town of Eldoret, dozens of men punched each other in the back as they gathered around the corner to read the latest headlines and argue over the relative merits of Ruto and Odinga.
But they all expressed confidence in the committee’s ability to deliver a real result.
“Only the IEBC (UKTN Electoral and Boundaries Commission) has the truth. We trust the IEBC.”
Ongao Okello studied the headlines two blocks away and added: “There is so much impatience… Given the experience we have in Kenya, we have to be patient and wait.”
More than 1,200 people were killed in widespread violence after the 2007 elections, and more than 100 died after the 2017 polls.
That history adds to the investigation of an election commission wary of repeat counting errors that led the Supreme Court to overturn the 2017 result and order a rematch.
The outcome of 2022 is also being closely watched abroad. Kenya is the region’s richest economy, a stable country in an unstable region and a close Western ally with regional headquarters for Alphabet, Visa and other international groups.
International observers were generally positive about the election, despite some last-minute printing issues, changes in procedures and inconsistencies in …ing of results.
However, Amnesty International said political parties are deliberately creating confusion by sharing false reports.
“Several reports from both KENYA KWANZA and AZIMIO candidates and their supporters have deliberately tried to misinform the electorate about the electoral process and election results,” the rights group said in a statement, citing the political alliances of Ruto and Odinga.
Former US Ambassador Johnnie Carson — a National Democratic Institute board member and election observer — said the process should be more reliable than fast.
“The technology must not exceed the trust and integrity of the citizens in the process,” he said.
Meanwhile, the media is filling the information gap. At 1500 GMT on Thursday, the private Nation group had counted the results of 89% of polling stations, putting Ruto ahead with 50.20% of the vote and Odinga with 49.12%.
At the same time, the private Citizen Ruto gave 49.09% of the vote and Odinga 49.51%.
According to a Reuters tally of 98 out of 291 constituency-level results forms at 1500 GMT, Odinga had 51.5% votes and Ruto 47.86%.
Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta has reached his two-term limit. He has endorsed Odinga after an argument with Ruto after the last election.
The winning candidate must get 50% of the vote plus one to win, and at least a quarter of the vote in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties. If there is no real winner, there will be a second round of voting without the two presidential candidates currently getting less than one percent between them.
Many UKTN, frustrated by the shifting alliances of the elites and fed up with rising prices and corruption, did not bother to vote in Tuesday’s round.
The commission said turnout for the vote, which also included legislative and local elections, was about 65%, up from nearly 80% in 2017.