Observers give Kenya vote thumbs up amid pockets of protest

NAIROBI (Reuters) – International observers on Thursday praised the handling of Kenya’s presidential election, with the European Union mission saying it had seen no sign of manipulation despite opposition complaints and scattered protests.

Police fired live rounds and tear gas as they clashed with opposition supporters in one Nairobi neighborhood but most of the capital and the rest of the country were calm after four people were killed in violence on Wednesday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has taken a commanding lead but his rival, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, has rejected provisional electronic results, saying figures released so far are “fictitious” and that election systems had been hacked.

As they wait for final results to be tallied and confirmed, many Kenyans are nervous of a repeat of the clashes that killed about 1,200 people after a bitterly contested 2007 election.

In its first assessment of Tuesday’s poll, the European Union’s election observer mission said it had seen no signs of “centralized or localized manipulation” of the voting process.

Marietje Schaake, head of the mission, said the EU would provide an analysis of the tallying process in a later report.

Provisional results released by the election commission showed Kenyatta had won 54.3 percent of votes, ahead of Odinga on 44.8 percent – a lead of 1.4 million votes with 97 percent of polling stations reported.

John Kerry, the former U.S. Secretary of State heading the Carter Center observer mission, said the election system, which is ultimately based on the original paper ballots cast, remained solid and all sides should wait for electronic tallies to be double-checked against hard copies.

“The process that was put in place is proving its value thus far,” Kerry said. “Kenya has made a remarkable statement to Africa and the world about its democracy and the character of that democracy. Don’t let anybody besmirch that.”

Kenya’s election commission said that it hoped to have all results centralized by midday on Friday and would announce a winner soon after that. It confirmed there had been an attempt to hack into its system but said it had failed.

Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president in charge of the African Union observer mission, praised the poll so far.

“It would be very regrettable if anything emerges afterwards that sought to corrupt the outcome, to spoil that outcome,” he said.

Pockets of Protests

Policemen stand on a road in Kawangware slum in Nairobi, Kenya,…

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