Incumbent Takes Early Lead in Troubled Kenya Voting


President Daniel Arap Moi took an early lead Wednesday in his bid for reelection after two days of voting marred by gross disorganization and allegations of rigging.

Observers said the returns were closer than expected: With results from 64 of the country’s 210 constituencies tallied, the private Kenya Television Network said Moi was leading with 759,411 votes. Next was Mwai Kibaki, Moi’s vice president for 10 years, with 519,180; left-leaning Raila Odinga had 252,424. In fourth place was Charity Kaluki Mwendwa Ngilu, the first woman to run for president in Kenya.

While some analysts said a Moi victory would mean Kenyans had opted for continuity over change, others said it would simply confirm that the election process had been stacked in favor of the incumbent and his ruling Kenya African National Union, or KANU, party, which appeared likely to retain its majority in the National Assembly.


“With the elections organized as they were, there is no other result you could get other than Moi and KANU coming back,” said Maina Kiai, executive director of the Nairobi-based Kenya Human Rights Commission, a nonprofit group. “I say ‘coming back’ and not ‘win,’ since you only win a fair fight.”

The country’s Electoral Commission was blamed for bureaucratic flaws that included mixed-up and missing ballots, and both the ruling party and the opposition charged that the election was rigged.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a statement expressing concern about “the possible disenfranchisement of some voters and allegations of rigging” and called on the Kenyan authorities to provide “a detailed and transparent explanation of all irregularities.”

And a group of more than 28,000 independent poll watchers concluded that “public and political confidence in the [electoral] process has been seriously undermined.”

The elections had been seen as a chance for Kenya to move toward social and economic revival. But some observers feared that the vote would instead deepen the country’s political crisis and present the winner with the onerous task of holding together an increasingly fractious and uncertain population.

“Kenya will end up in a very tense situation, where these elections do not resolve a political crisis but exacerbate it,” Kiai said.


It was unclear late Wednesday when final, official results would be available in this East African nation’s third multi-party election since independence in 1963. Moi is hoping to win among more than a dozen contenders and secure a fifth five-year term.

The winner of the presidential race needs to garner at least 25% of the vote in at least five of Kenya’s seven provinces and the Nairobi region; otherwise, a runoff will be called between the top two vote-getters within 21 days.

Eight people were reported to have died in election-related violence since Monday. But turnout was high, according to the Electoral Commission.

The National Convention Executive Council--a loose coalition of political activists and civic and religious leaders--called on Kenyans to reject the results. The group, which had led a push for preelection constitutional and administrative reforms, insisted that Moi form a government of national unity or face the possibility of civil mass action.

Moi and KANU complained that they were the main victims of the bungled election. But critics called that a ploy to divert attention from their role in the chaos.

Moi, 73, has promised that, if reelected, his government would boost employment, step up security and fight high-level corruption that has cost Kenya millions of dollars in international loans.


“Coming in for his last term, he might be a reformer,” said one Western diplomat. “He’s gotten what he wants. His career is already at an end. He is financially well-off. At this point, a man begins to worry about his place in history.”

But with almost half of Kenya’s 29 million people languishing below the poverty line, illiteracy on the rise and the country’s infrastructure a shambles, critics say Moi has no intention of resolving in five years problems he failed to tackle in almost two decades.

“It’s wishful thinking,” said Kiai of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. “Moi is part of a culture that has no personality outside of the power he wields. This man does not believe in anything but control.”