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"No Declaration Wednesday" - Kenya's Election Commission

An electoral worker carries ballot boxes at a collection and tallying center in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.

Kenya's electoral commission said it would be at least Thursday before the winner of Tuesday's close but calm presidential election is declared.

“The issue of saying that we should declare results today (Wednesday), that will not happen today,” electoral commission chair Wafula Chebukati told journalists, but he said the aim is to conclude the process “at the earliest possible time.” He said polling went smoothly.

Official election results must be announced within a week of the vote. More than 98% of results forms from the over 46,000 polling centers had been sent to the commission on Wednesday.

Voter turnout was notably lower than usual with many Kenyans expressing frustration with economic challenges, corruption and widespread unemployment in East Africa’s economic hub.

The commission on Wednesday said turnout was at least 65%, far lower than the 80% in the previous election in 2017. More than 22 million people were registered to vote, but some told The Associated Press they doubted they would bother.

A runoff election will be held if no candidate receives more than 50% of votes.

Longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga is making his fifth and likely final attempt to lead, backed by former rival and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta. The other top contender is Deputy President William Ruto, who fell out with the president earlier in their decade in power.

Both candidates are long known to Kenyans — Odinga as a democracy campaigner and former political detainee and Ruto as a wealthy populist who plays up his humble youth as a contrast to the dynasties that produced Odinga and Kenyatta.

The president's backing of Odinga cut across the usual ethnic lines that have long defined elections and contributed to violence. This time there is no candidate from Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, though both top candidates chose Kikuyu running mates.

More than 1,000 people were killed after 2007 election results were announced and Odinga alleged massive rigging. In 2017, the high court overturned the election results, a first in Africa, after Odinga alleged irregularities. He boycotted the fresh election and declared himself the “people's president,” drawing accusations of treason.

A handshake with Kenyatta calmed that crisis, set up their unusual alliance and angered Ruto, who still accuses the president of betrayal.

Both Odinga and Ruto have said they will accept the results as long as the vote is free and fair.

So far, reported troubles include the failure of about 200 voting kits out of more than 46,000 across the country. The electoral commission called it “not widespread” and “normal” for technology to break down at times.

But some local reports also cited people saying they were unable to vote when the kits didn't recognize them and polling workers wouldn't use the paper voters' register as a backup, which was allowed.

Kenyans have a week from the announcement of official results to file any court challenges. The court has two weeks to rule, and a fresh election would be held within 60 days.