NAIROBI — Kenya’s electoral committee has fallen apart in a surprise development that is sending shockwaves through Kenya.
Four committee members have “distanced” themselves from the IEBC, which was supposed to announce formal election results this afternoon.
It means that, nearly a week after the elections, there is still no formal winner.
In dramatic scenes in Nairobi, fighting broke out at the Bomas of Kenya, the venue where the result was expected to be announced. Security personnel dragged out multiple people.
As a result, the political vacuum is far from filled: East Africa is holding its breath as millions wait to see what will happen next.
Historically, candidates fight on even after formal results have been announced, with riots, court proceedings and fraud allegations usually flying high.
Both Odinga and Ruto polled for days at 50 per cent of the vote most of last week but no formal results were announced this afternoon as a result of the chaos.
By law, results had to be announced within one week after the election, so before midnight tomorrow.
To win outright, a candidate needed more than half of all votes and at least 25 per cent of the votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties.
Scuffles and fraud allegations
Since last week an extremely close race had unfolded between the two main candidates for the presidency, with millions of Kenyans holding their breath as they wait what today would bring.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is backed by the outgoing president and seen as the establishment candidate, faced deputy president William Ruto, who styles himself as an outsider and a “hustler”.
In the runup to today’s expected announcement, several standoffs and scuffles broke out across the country this week, primarily at polling stations and mostly disputes over vote counting and submitted or incomplete ballot papers.
Also, allegations and statements of elections fraud are flying high with several prominent politicians taking to social media to make wild, unverified claims.
More than 22m registered voters had the chance to endorse their favourite candidates in 46,232 polling stations across the country last week.
However, fewer Kenyans voted. Turnout was just under 60 per cent as polls closed with some voters citing little hope of real change.
Since Tuesday’s elections many Kenyan streets were, and still are, deserted, as millions of people nervously waited at home for the result and whether parties will accept the formal outcome.
Apart from chaotic scenes at polling stations, most streets are eerily quiet, and there is less traffic than normal.
Public transport is also at a minimum and in capital Nairobi a large police presence can be spotted on the street.
Tuesday’s election was considered close but calm.
This is partly because economic issues such as widespread corruption and rising cost of living were of greater importance than the ethnic tensions that have marked past votes with sometimes deadly results.
Kenya is a standout with its relatively democratic system in a region where some leaders are notorious for clinging to power for decades.
Its stability is crucial for foreign investors, the most humble of street vendors and troubled neighbours like Ethiopia and Somalia.
2007 election violence
Elections can be exceptionally troubled, as in 2007 when the country exploded after Mr Odinga claimed the vote had been stolen from him and more than 1,000 people were killed.
Mr Ruto was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for his role in the violence, but his case was terminated amid allegations of witness tampering.
In 2017, the high court overturned the election results, a first in Africa, after Mr Odinga challenged them over irregularities.
He boycotted the new vote and proclaimed himself the “people’s president”, bringing allegations of treason. A public handshake between him and Mr Kenyatta calmed the crisis.
This is likely Odinga’s last try. Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga have said they will accept the official results — if the vote is free and fair.
“It is every Kenyan’s hope,” the president told journalists on Tuesday.