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Kenyan Opposition Wins Parliament Speaker Vote; Readies For Protests

Kenya's opposition has won a victory in parliament, taking the post of speaker, and is preparing to show its power in the streets with nationwide rallies.

The opposition is planning three days of rallies set to begin Wednesday to protest last month's disputed elections. The rallies are being held in nearly 30 locations across the country despite a government ban and have raised fears of renewed political violence that has already left more than 600 people dead.

In parliament Tuesday, the candidate for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, Kenneth Marende, was elected speaker, in a close vote reflecting Kenya's deep and bitter political divisions.

Marende received 105 votes - just four more than Francis ole Kaparo, who was supported by President Mwai Kibaki. During the parliament session, voting was delayed by arguments over whether the election should be conducted by open or secret ballot.

The opposition demanded a public vote, saying secret ballots allowed the government to steal last month's presidential election. Lawmakers eventually agreed on a secret ballot.

The United States said the election sends a signal that both sides can come together to agree on a way forward.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials say more than six thousand Kenyans have fled into neighboring Uganda over the last several weeks to escape post-election violence. Another 200,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence.

The World Food Program says it distributed food to 2,000 Kenyan refugees in Uganda Tuesday. It also said it distributed food to four Nairobi slums. The agency said most people who live in the slums rely on casual labor to survive and were not able to work during the post-election violence.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due in Nairobi Tuesday to take over an international effort to mediate the crisis. However, Annan postponed the visit after coming down with the flu.

Kenya's electoral commission declared Mr. Kibaki the winner of the December 27 election after a vote-counting process that international observers say was seriously flawed.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga insists he won the vote, and the ODM has called on the president to resign or share power.