The head of Kenya’s election commission has admitted the tallying of results from the country’s presidential poll was moving too slowly, blaming political parties for the delay, as national broadcasters abruptly stopped sharing provisional outcomes.
Tuesday’s election was largely peaceful but disputes over previous presidential votes have been followed by deadly violence, fuelling jitters as provisional results point to a tight race between the frontrunners William Ruto and Raila Odinga.
After the supreme court annulled the 2017 presidential poll, citing irregularities and mismanagement by the independent electoral and boundaries commission (IEBC), the election watchdog is under pressure to deliver a clean vote and release the results by 16 August.
But the complex process of verifying and tallying votes is now in its fourth day, with the IEBC chair, Wafula Chebukati, accusing political party agents of delaying the exercise by haranguing election workers with unnecessary questions.
“We have observed that we are not moving as fast as we should. This exercise needs to be concluded as soon as possible,” Chebukati said on Friday. “The agents in this exercise cannot proceed in the manner in which we are proceeding as if we are doing a forensic audit.
“Please don’t interrogate the … officers and slow down the process. If we do that, we will not be able to finish this exercise.”
The IEBC, in an effort to be transparent, has uploaded forms to its website showing the results from each polling station, enabling Kenyan TV channels to work out their tallies. But the broadcasters suddenly stopped their tallies on Thursday, with about 1m votes left to go. They provided no explanation for the halt.
Chebukati has urged Kenyans not to worry about the different outcomes projected by various TV channels, saying the IEBC would release the results as soon as possible.
But with the wait probably stretching into the weekend, some Kenyans said they were increasingly anxious to know who the country’s next leader would be.
“We pray they announce, the earlier the better,” Jael Akinyi, a retired librarian, said on a busy street corner in Odinga’s bastion of Kisumu.
Christopher Mesa, a pastor at the Africa gospel church in the lakeside city, said there was “a lot of anxiety about the results” among his congregation, and the conflicting results on television only served to confuse people.
“By not showing the results, it calms the people. That was bringing emotions up and down,” he said. “We would rather it takes time but it is clear. The delay is not a problem,” he said.
International observers, including from the US, the EU and the African Union, have hailed the IEBC for improving its procedures compared with earlier polls.
But turnout was lower than in previous elections and some Kenyans said they were keen to move on from the vote and resume normal life. “I don’t care [for] the ongoing counting for the presidential [election], it makes people anxious,” said Peter Kamau, a 42-year-old taxi drive. “We want to go back to daily life.”
No presidential poll outcome has gone uncontested in Kenya since 2002, and the disputes have led to bloodshed in the past, either involving ethnic clashes or police violence.
Social media is already swamped with disinformation about the results, with rights campaigners and civil society groups accusing both candidates’ camps of sharing misleading posts.
Kenyans voted in six elections on Tuesday, choosing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, female representatives and 1,500 county officials.