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Analysts Fear Low Voter Turnout Will Undercut Kenya Election Results

  • Jill Craig

A couple run past burning shops during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 27, 2017.

Kenya’s electoral commission has called for patience and calm as it tallies the results of Thursday's re-run presidential election. However, some analysts already fear that the low turnout — just 35 percent compared to nearly 80 percent in the previous poll in August — may undercut the credibility of the results.

The chief of Kenya's electoral commission says 6.5 million voters, about one-third of all registered voters, cast ballots in the election Thursday.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga told his supporters to boycott the vote, and some polling stations looked like ghost towns. Others had lines, but significantly shorter than the original August election. Some were closed entirely due to security concerns.

Murithi Mutiga, the International Crisis Group’s Kenya analyst, said "if this turns out to be the final act in what has been a very dramatic election, it will be a very unsatisfactory conclusion for all sides."

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta casts his vote in his hometown of Gatundu, Kenya, Oct. 26, 2017.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta casts his vote in his hometown of Gatundu, Kenya, Oct. 26, 2017.

The president, Mutiga added, will "move forward with what seems like a very shaky mandate, without a clear mandate from the people; that’s a very, very low turnout. It’s the lowest turnout in Kenya’s multiparty history. We’ve had six elections since 1992 and the lowest was just about 57 percent. In general, Kenya election turnout levels are always above 65 percent.”

The electoral commission said voting would take place Saturday in four areas of western Kenya where polling was halted due to violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

But late on Friday, the commission said electoral staff would be at risk and postponed the voting to an undetermined future date.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, the IEBC reported that it has received the large majority of official polling station forms and official constituency forms back from the field, but had yet to announce any vote count.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is making his second attempt at re-election. The Supreme Court nullified his victory in the August 8th poll, ruling that the electoral commission had not followed electoral law and the constitution.

Odinga called for several members of the commission to step down and for the polls to be postponed beyond a 60-day deadline announced by the court.

The opposition has not said whether it plans to file a legal challenge the results of Thursday’s election.

Odinga told supporters he would give further “instructions” on Monday.

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