NAIROBI: Kenya was calm on Tuesday, day after Vice President William Ruto was declared the winner of the close presidential election against longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga – a closely watched vote in the East African country that has been crucial for regional stability.
There were protests by Odinga supporters in some towns on Monday night after chaos over the declaration as a majority of election commissioners said the process was “opaque”. These commissioners, appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, gave no details of their sudden objection after an election widely considered to be the most transparent ever held in Kenya.
Odinga, 77, who has held the presidency for a quarter of a century, has still made no public statement or appearance. His campaign has signaled that it may challenge the election result in court and has seven days after the declaration to do so. The Supreme Court would then have 14 days to decide.
The chairman of the electoral commission said Ruto won with almost 50.5% of the vote while Odinga got almost 49%. On Tuesday, the local election observation group announced that its highly praised parallel vote count “corroborates the official results” in an important check on the process.
“We have made progress towards credible elections,” the group said. He called the split in the electoral commission “unfortunate”, but noted that the president is the one who is responsible, under the constitution, for announcing the results.
Odinga’s campaign expected a win after the incumbent president, in a political twist, backed his former rival Odinga instead of his own vice president. In the minutes before the statement, shocked Kenyans watched screaming Odinga supporters, including newly elected MPs, scuffle with election commission officials before police restored calm.
Ruto, 55, has won over Kenyans by running the election on economic differences, not ethnic differences that have long marked the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results. He presented himself as an outsider of humble beginnings challenging the political dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga, whose fathers were Kenya’s first president and vice president.
Yet last Tuesday’s vote turnout fell to 65% as Kenyans across the country of 65 million expressed frustration and lack of confidence that the candidates would tackle the issues of rising prices, high unemployment and widespread corruption. The now wealthy Ruto himself has faced and denied multiple allegations of land grabbing and other bribes.
In the sleepy capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday, motorcyclist Distrious Mirimo saw that some businesses remained closed. “Those who closed are scared but I urge them to open because nothing is happening,” he said. “The president has already been chosen and we have to accept the results.”
While an increasing number of African leaders released statements congratulating Ruto, Kenya’s incumbent president remained silent.

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