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Early Results of Kenya's Parliamentary Vote Count Show High Profile Losses

Kenya's vice president and a number of cabinet ministers have lost their parliamentary seats according to first results from Kenyan elections on Thursday. As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, presidential challenger Raila Odinga is leading incumbent Mwai Kibaki, but with the slow pace of vote counting, a clear winner may not emerge before Saturday.

Among the early casualties in Kenya's parliamentary races are Vice President Moody Awori; Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju; Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe and Minister for Local Government Musikari Kombo. According to early results reported by Kenyan television news, at least 10 of Kibaki's 32 cabinet ministers have lost their seats, and further losses appear likely.

Many of the incumbents lost to challengers from Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement. While presidential polls leading up to the vote have indicated an extremely tight contest, Odinga's party, known as ODM, was widely expected to come first in the legislative elections.

In early unofficial results broadcast on Kenyan television from over one third of Kenya's constituencies, give Raila Odinga a large lead over incumbent Mwai Kibaki in the presidential race.

But official results from the electoral commission are trickling in much more slowly, with commissioners saying a winner may not be announced until Saturday.

Electoral Commission Vice Chair Kihara Muttu apologized for the delay in counting during a news conference in Nairobi.

"The receipt of information from the field seems to be taking a bit of time," said Muttu. "It is only when the returning officer has tallied all the results fro the whole constituency that he will send it to us. Still we feel we are not sending them fast enough."

Observers say voting was for the most part peaceful, but there were reports of scattered unrest. Two people were killed in separate incidents on Thursday, and counting has been suspended in at least two constituencies amid concerns over irregularities.

If President Kibaki loses, it would be the first time an incumbent has been defeated at the polls in Kenya, and one of the few such cases in Africa.

Mr. Kibaki has presided over a strong level of economic growth - more than five percent in the past year - and his introduction of free primary education has been popular.

But Mr. Odinga claims that wealth has been concentrated in the hands of Mr. Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe - Kenya's largest, and that the president has failed to deliver on a pledge to combat corruption.

Mr. Odinga has strong support from his Luo tribe - based in Western Kenya - and has the backing of a number of leaders of other groups that claim to have been marginalized by the current government.

Regionally, early results have so far followed expected patterns with Odinga leading in all of Kenya's eight provinces with the exception of Central and Eastern provinces - the home turf of Kibaki and third-place Kalonzo Musyoka, respectively.

Mr. Odinga has called for a more decentralized system of government. But many analysts see few other major policy differences between the two candidates.