Friday night I was out with an American couple who stay in my building. On the TV the election’s oversight body read off vote counts from across the country. Several high-ranking members of the ruling party had lost their seats in Parliament and the opposition candidate had a strong lead. Insightfully, the woman wondered why it was taking so long to count all the votes. I was less concerned. Things in Kenya sometimes take a bit longer than we’re used to, and counting millions of paper ballots is a chore for anyone. I was looking forward to writing a blog entry scolding myself for the ominous ending of my last post.
If you want to read about the mayhem that ensued the next morning and may be continuing now, pick up a newspaper. As I understand it, delays over vote counting and disappearing ballot boxes convinced the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and their base in the Luo tribe that the ruling party had fixed the election. Pre-election polls giving Raila the lead, didn’t help. Rioting and looting ensued across the country as Luo gangs battled members of the president’s Kikuyu tribe. A few people died. Both sides have declared victory and the rhetoric isn’t helping. Reuters quoted a spokesman for the president’s party dismissing the ODM’s claim. “Kangaroo results given by any Tom, Dick or Harry deserve every contempt.”
I didn’t have a compelling reason to go watch the rioting and it would have been stupidly dangerous. So like most people in Kenya I stayed home. Inexplicably, the elections commission stopped announcing results early yesterday evening in a session lively with harassment and ejections. The indecision left open fears of violence continuing today.
Last I heard, opposition candidate Raila Odinga led by 38,000, a thin edge in a country with 14.2 million registered voters and lots more districts left to announce. I don’t know enough about Kenya’s Red state/Blue state split to analyze the remaining districts and make a prediction. Still, no matter who becomes president one candidate would have to enjoy a mighty surge for the election to be anything other than too close to call.