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Kenya calm a day after chaotic presidential declaration

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) – Kenya was calm yesterday, a day after Deputy President William Ruto was declared the winner of the narrow presidential election over longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga – a vote closely watched in the East African country that has been crucial to regional stability.

There were protests by Odinga supporters in some cities on Monday night after chaos around the declaration as a majority of electoral commissioners alleged the process was “opaque”.

Those commissioners, appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, gave no details about their sudden objection after an election widely seen as the most transparent ever in Kenya.

The 77-year-old Odinga, who has pursued the presidency for a quarter-century, made no public statement or appearance. His campaign has signalled it might 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 make a ruling.

The electoral commission chairman said Ruto won with almost 50.5 per cent of votes while Odinga received nearly 49 per cent.

Supporters of presidential candidate William Ruto celebrate his victory over opposition leader Raila Odinga in Eldoret, Kenya. PHOTO: AP

Yesterday, the local Elections Observation Group announced that its highly regarded parallel voting tally “corroborates the official results” in an important check on the process.

“We have made strides toward credible elections,” the group said.

It called the split in the electoral commission “unfortunate” but noted that the chairman is the one charged under the constitution with announcing the results.

Odinga’s campaign had expected victory after the outgoing president in a political twist backed his former rival Odinga instead of his own deputy president.

In the minutes before the declaration, shocked Kenyans watched shouting Odinga supporters, including newly elected members of Parliament, scuffle with electoral commission officials before police restored calm.

The 55-year-old Ruto appealed to Kenyans by making the election about economic differences and not the ethnic ones that have long marked the country’s politics with sometimes deadly results.

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