Kenyans on tenterhooks as IEBC set to declare winner
The anxious wait for the declaration of the winner of this year’s presidential election is likely to end today or tomorrow when electoral commission boss Wafula Chebukati finally reads the results contained in the famous Form 34C.
All indications last evening were that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission could conclude tallying and verification of results for all the 290 constituencies and the Diaspora votes by today and thereafter declare the winner.
However, Chebukati is on record as having said he will not declare a winner at night, meaning that if the tallying ends late today, he will make the big announcement tomorrow.
By Sunday evening, the commission had verified and approved results from 184 consistencies with indication the race remained tight between Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio candidate Raila Odinga.
Results from the remaining 106 constituencies are expected to be verified and tallied by the end of the day, latest by tomorrow morning.
If the winner achieves 50 per cent plus one of the cast votes and at least 25 per cent of votes cast in at least 24 counties, he will be announced an outright winner. If not, voters will have to go back to the ballot as IEBC will have to organise a run-off within 30 days. In a run-off election, the candidate with a simple majority will be declared the winner.
Anxiety has gripped the country since the casting of ballots last Tuesday. The situation has not been helped by claims from different sources, made worse by circulation of unverified figures showing various candidates winning.
However, only Chebukati, the presidential election returning officer, has the power to declare a winner.
With only a day to the constitutionally stipulated deadline to declare a winner, the electoral agency will not only be looking to complete the exercise without the risk of violating the supreme law but also end it without major incidents that could mar the credibility of the outcome or lead to an election petition at the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, IEBC was preparing to finalise the verification of votes as the whole country continued to hold its collective breath as voters waited to know who will become the next Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces.
This happened as Ruto and Raila attended church services where they asked their supporters to remain calm as they waited for the announcement of the final results.
Raila was at St Francis ACK Church in Karen where he expressed optimism that he would take Kenyans to the Canaan, the land of milk and honey that he has promised them if elected president.
“We hope we will be able to enjoy life in Canaan,” said Raila who was accompanied by running mate Martha Karua and other Azimio leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi.
The leader, who is hoping to be a fifth time lucky in his quest to lead the nation, urged Kenyans to be peaceful as they wait for the final tally.
“We hope peace will prevail after the elections because we are part and parcel of our nation. We want Kenya to remain stronger going forward,” he said.
Ruto attended a church service at his official residence in Karen, where he also asked Kenyans to be patient and peaceful as the commission finalises its work.
“Much as we all went to vote, the final decision is God’s. We vote but God chooses,” said the DP, who is seeking for the first time to be the nation’s president.
“I want to ask Kenyans to be patient and to pray for IEBC so they can complete the exercise in the manner in which we have voted. We voted peacefully and we have gone through the process peacefully. It is my prayer that it ends peacefully.”
Focus will also be on the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is expected to play a critical role in the transition.
The country’s fourth President has reiterated his readiness to hand over power to whoever is declared the winner.
On Saturday, he hosted African Union/Comesa observers, led by former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, who have been monitoring the elections on behalf of the two organisations. The team praised Kenya for the peaceful elections and expressed hope that the country will remain peaceful after the winner is announced.
President Kenyatta told the observers that he was focused on ensuring completion of the elections and maintaining peace as he prepares to hand over power.
“The only anxiety witnessed has been that of anticipation but not of fear,” he said.
The State House meeting came amid growing pressure from the United States to ensure that the country witnesses a peaceful handover to the next leader.
On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the President and asked him to ensure the country remained peaceful after the polls.
“Discussed with @StateHouseKenya President Uhuru Kenyatta my recent trip to Africa and the importance of Kenya’s elections as a model for the continent. We encourage peace and patience as the vote tallying continues from the August 9 elections,” said Blinken in a tweet.
With tension rising at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium, where IEBC officials have been tallying and announcing official results since Thursday, the agency was last evening racing against time to finalise the verification that has been delayed by scrutiny by politicians and agents from both sides, prompting Chebukati to change the workflow.
Yesterday, politicians were barred from entering the National Tallying Centre and the process has hastened since. In the first briefing, the commission announced the final results for 40 constituencies.
Elsewhere, leaders continued yesterday to urge Kenyans to remain peaceful.
“Stability is important for development and economic growth. We have a great country and democracy needs to be let to triumph…we cast the votes but God chooses the leader. Kenya is a great country,” said outgoing Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua who accompanied Ruto to the church service.
Once the winner is announced, those wishing to lodge a dispute at the Supreme Court must do so within seven days after the announcement of the results.
The top court will have 14 days to hear and determine such a suit after. In case of a nullification of the results, a repeat election must be held within 60 days.