Kenya’s opposition has angrily described early results from the country’s presidential election as “fake”.
With more than three-quarters of polling stations reporting results by the early hours of Wednesday morning, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was seen to be leading his main challenger Raila Odinga by 55% to 44%.
But Mr Odinga, a former political prisoner who unsuccessfully used the courts to contest his defeat in the last presidential election in 2013, dismissed the count as “fictitious” – with the opposition’s own tally indicating he is winning.
The final days of campaigning in Kenya’s election were marred by the murder and torture of a top election official, which Mr Odinga linked to his claims of vote rigging.
At a late-night news conference, he added: “We have our projections from our agents which show we are ahead by far. We fear this was exactly the reason Chris Msando was assassinated.”
Kenya’s election has been dogged by fears of another outbreak of violence similar to the one seen after Mr Odinga’s election loss in 2007.
That crisis, fuelled by ethnic divisions, led to the deaths of about 1,200 people.
Mr Kenyatta, a wealthy businessman, is the 55-year-old son of Kenya’s first president.
He is a member of the Kikuyu ethnic group, which has supplied three of the east African country’s four presidents since it became independent from Britain in 1963.
Mr Odinga, 72, draws support from the Luo tribe, Kenya’s second-largest ethnic group.
On Tuesday, Mr Odinga said he would accept an election loss “in the unlikely event that I lost fairly”.
Of Kenya’s population of 48 million, 19 million were registered to vote in elections that are also choosing members of parliament and local representatives in the country’s devolved counties.
Former US secretary of state John Kerry, who is acting as an election observer in Kenya, had earlier called for a “fair” vote.
He wrote on Twitter: “An inspiring day in Kenya watching democracy in action.
“Enthusiastic voters not fazed by long lines – all agree election must be fair/free.”