Slow counts in Kenya’s tight election raise fears of interference

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By CARA ANNA, Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The vote count in Kenya’s close presidential election is not moving fast enough, the chairman of the electoral commission said on Friday, while parallel counting by local media has slowed significantly in because of concerns about censorship or interference.

The head of Kenya’s government-established Media Council told The Associated Press that ‘no one has asked anyone to stop’ but added that ‘we want to align the numbers with each other and “I think we’ll look at our numbers. “David Omwoyo was on his way to a meeting with media officials as he spoke.

Kenyans and other observers have expressed concern after Kenya Television Network, NTV Kenya and Citizen TV tally presidential results forms posted online by the electoral commission, stopped or slowed Thursday night.

Their divergent results fueled concern as longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga, backed by former rival and incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta in his fifth bid for the presidency, faces Vice President William Ruto, who fell out with the president years ago.

Political cartoons about world leaders

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Kenya could see a second round of presidential elections for the first time.

With no clear winner and perhaps days more to go, social media has been buzzing with unverified claims from supporters of both candidates, which rights groups have called dangerous in a country with a history of political violence.

Even the official count was slow, adding to the impatience. “We are not moving as fast as we should,” election commission chairwoman Wafula Chebukati said.

The public posting of the results forms was expected to be a groundbreaking exercise in transparency for the electoral commission, which is under pressure after the High Court cited irregularities and annulled the results of the previous presidential election in 2017, a first in Africa. Kenyatta won the new vote after Odinga boycotted it.

The commission chairman even appeared to tease local media a day after Tuesday’s election, saying they were “behind” in tallying the more than 46,000 results forms released across the country.

But transparency “is also a double-edged sword if caution and accountability are not exercised,” Kenya’s Human Rights Commission said on Friday, saying the various unexplained media tallies have caused “the anxiety, fear, turmoil and, in extreme cases, violence”. Meanwhile, social media is “inundated with misinformation”, he said.

On Wednesday, the media council noted ‘increasing concerns’ over the various counts and said it was consulting with media owners and editors ‘to find an urgent solution to this issue to ensure Kenyans receive synchronized results. “.

Their slowdown has drawn criticism. “For the media to be silent and opaque about their own accounts and why they quit is yet another betrayal of their duty to Kenyans,” cartoonist and commentator Patrick Gathara tweeted on Friday.

The editorial directors of Citizen and Standard/KTN media did not respond to questions from the AP. Nation media group editor Mutuma Mathiu raised concerns in a comment saying the slow count has given rise to “a whole host of conspiracy theories and complaints”, adding that “the media occupy different positions with respect to political interests”. He also cited the need to remain independent and do precise work.

To win, a candidate needs more than half of all votes and at least 25% of votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. No outright winner means a runoff election within 30 days.

Seeking answers, some Kenyans turned to counting a much smaller set of results forms for 291 constituencies also released by the electoral commission. Nearly 75% of them had been posted by Friday afternoon.

Turnout fell sharply in this election to 65% as some Kenyans expressed weariness of seeing long-time familiar political leaders on the ballot and frustration with economic problems including widespread corruption and rising prices.

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