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Early Results Show Kibaki Heading for Presidential Win in Kenya - 2002-12-28

Supporters of Kenya's opposition party are celebrating what appears to be a landslide win for its candidate in Friday's historic presidential election.

Supporters of the opposition National Rainbow Coalition celebrated in the streets Saturday, as early election results showed its presidential candidate, Mwai Kibaki, heading for a resounding victory.

The results have been trickling in overnight and throughout the day from more than 18,000 polling stations nationwide.

Pollsters say Mr. Kibaki so far is ahead of his chief rival, the ruling KANU party candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, by more than 80 percent.

Raila Odinga, a senior member of the National Rainbow Coalition, known by its acronym NARC, told reporters Saturday that Kenyans have voted overwhelmingly for change. "It appears that we are on the eve of a historic victory," he said. "This is the Christmas gift that NARC promised Kenyans and we are delivering on our promise."

Mr. Kibaki and NARC had campaigned on a promise to right the wrongs of the past 39 years of government controlled by KANU. Kenyans have largely blamed KANU for decades of corruption, graft and mismanagement, which have left Kenya aid dependent and poverty stricken.

If Mr. Kibaki wins, he will replace outgoing President Daniel arap Moi, who wielded absolute power over Kenya's 30 million people for nearly a quarter century. Mr. Moi was constitutionally barred from seeking another term in office.

Addressing Kenya's armed forces on Saturday, he urged them to accept the election results peacefully. "As I relinquish power, my one message to you is that you should support our new president and our country and keep up the good work that you have done so well," said the outgoing president.

Despite administrative mix ups at some polling stations Friday that prevented hundreds of people from voting, election observers say they were generally satisfied with the overall process.

For the first time, vote counting took place where the ballots were cast to minimize chances for tampering.

Election related violence ahead of this year's polls was also minimal compared to past elections in 1992 and 1997, when hundreds were killed, mostly in ethnic clashes.

Electoral commission officials say they hope to have the final results of the presidential race by Monday at the latest.