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Could rejected votes decide Kenya's election?

A decision on hundreds of thousands of initially rejected ballots in presidential poll could hold the key to who wins.
Last modified: 6 Mar 2013 13:26
Photo by AFP

A decision on hundreds of thousands of rejected ballots in Kenya's presidential election could hold the key to who wins.

The more than 330,000 ballots - the number keeps rising - that have been rejected for not following election rules also appear likely to decide if there will be a run-off.

Ahmed Issack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the country's independent electoral body, said that rejected votes would count towards the final tally and that percentages would have to be updated to reflect this.

If the rejected votes are added to the total votes cast, it would reduce each candidate's share of the vote. Kenyatta's percentage yesterday evening, for example, would decline to 50.2 per cent from 53.5 per cent if rejected ballots were included in the total number of votes counted.

Rejected votes which are mainly made of spoilt ballots and those placed in the wrong boxes have so far not been classified as cast and added to the tally.

A candidate must secure an absolute majority to win the first round, replacing past rules that required only a relative majority for victory.

Lawyers for the candidates and the commission have been meeting to try interpreting a clause in Kenya's new constitution that says "votes cast" rather than valid votes should count.

In a briefing to journalists on Tuesday evening the commission chairman confirmed that the count would be updated to include the rejected ballots.

This angered the Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta’s, who is leading in early tallies and keen to avoid a run-off, which quickly interpreted the commission's stance as a plot to force the country into a second round of elections.

William Ruto, who is Uhuru's running mate, said: "We want to believe that this is not an attempt to deny the Jubilee Coalition a first round victory as it's clearly now on the wall.

"We want to ask the chairman and the commission to give us an explanation because we want to believe that rejected votes that cannot form any basis whatsoever of calculation of a presidential result.

"We haven't seen this happen anywhere, we do not see why it should happen in this election."

The vote tallying process at the National Tallying Centre in Nairobi has been marred by delays.

The commission says the delays were caused by technical hitches in the transmission of results from polling stations across the country.

And to hasten the process the commission has decided to call in its returning officers from all parts of the country to the capital so they can bring the results.

The commission says announcement of the results will resume on Wednesday.