Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement in Kenya. He is a leading candidate for the presidency of the country.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Counting has continued through the night in polling stations across Kenya, in what is seen as the country's closest-ever elections.
An election official said that turnout could reach 70%.
Voting was extended in areas where polls opened several hours late - notably in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.
President Mwai Kibaki faces his strongest challenge from his former ally, Raila Odinga, who alleged fraud before the polls opened.
An Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) spokesman told the BBC that turnout had been "massive" - maybe more than 70%.
Some say the huge numbers overwhelmed the authorities.
Correspondents say that in Kenya's previous elections, the outcome has been obvious before polling, or at least there has been a strong favourite.
When Mr Odinga first turned up to vote in Kibera, his name was missing from the electoral register - like many other people whose names began with "R" or "O".
The BBC's Karen Allen in Kibera says this will fuel suspicions of a plot to rig the election, although other say it was merely a bureaucratic mix-up.
Mr Odinga, who has led recent opinion polls, was allowed to vote later - to cheering crowds in the constituency he represents in parliament.
There is tight security around the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, where the results will be announced.
The first presidential results are expected on Friday but parliamentary results could be known earlier.
Mr Kibaki was able to vote unhindered in the central town of Nyeri.
"I am sure we will win. Thank you Kenyans for giving me an opportunity and I will not tire serving you," he said.
People started to queue before dawn on Thursday.
"I have not even milked my cow because today we are putting our country first," said Mary Muthoni Gikiri as she waited to vote in Mr Kibaki's hometown of Othaya, some 200km (125 miles) from the capital, Nairobi.
The queue of voters stretched for more than a kilometre outside some polling stations.
In the North-Eastern Province, one old man collapsed and died while waiting to vote.
There were isolated reports of violence. A man was shot dead in Kibera - police say it was criminal, but Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says it was political.
At least two other deaths were reported in western Kenya.
Earlier, chief EU election monitor Alexander Graf Lambsdorff invited anyone with evidence of election fraud to come forward.
"As far as allegations of rigging are concerned, they are just that - allegations," he told the BBC.
Mr Odinga's supporters have accused the president of using state security agents to help rig the polls.
On Wednesday three police officers were killed in Kisumu, after the opposition alleged that they were carrying pre-marked ballot papers.
The president has denied involvement in any election fraud.
More than 14 million Kenyans were eligible to take part in Thursday's polls - which also included parliamentary and local elections.
President Kibaki, running under the banner of a broad-based coalition known as the Party of National Unity, hopes his economic record will secure a second term.
Mr Odinga played a key role in Mr Kibaki's 2002 victory.
But the pair fell out soon afterwards.
Mr Kibaki's critics accuse him of failing to keep his promise to tackle corruption.
There are eight candidates standing in the presidential elections.
Kenya awaits result of tight presidential race
Friday, December 28
NAIROBI (AFP) - - Polling wound up in Kenya after a presidential vote marked by relative calm and high turnout, while counting began to confirm whether Mwai Kibaki would keep his job or be unseated by opposition leader Raila Odinga.
One person was killed in western Kenya and another in a Nairobi slum but police and election observers reported few incidents despite what appeared to be a larger turnout than in the 2002 polls that brought Kibaki to power.
The 76-year-old Kibaki is seeking a second term, boasting a solid economic record and continued stability, while former political prisoner Raila Odinga, 62, aims to clinch the job.
For the first time since 1963 independence from Britain in 1963, Kenya's 14 million voters were urged to the 27,000 polling stations with no certainty of the winner's identity.
"Those polling stations that opened on time have closed and those where voting started late are going on," said Jack Tumwa, an official with the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
Hundreds of people had started lining up in the dark when the first polling stations opened at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) and queues several kilometres (miles) long quickly formed in the capital Nairobi and elsewhere.
"I slept here because I want to ensure that there is no rigging. We want to vote for change, for change," said Robert Kipkurui, an Odinga supporter in the western Rift Valley town of Eldoret.
"There is more turnout than in 2002, there are more youth and more and more people enlightened about chosing their leaders," said Teresia Kiilu, a polling station official in Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slum.
After lavish campaigns, the run-up to Kenya's fourth elections since a multi-party system was reintroduced was marred by opposition accusations that Kibaki's camp was planning to rig the ballot.
Walking out of a polling station in his Nairobi constituency, Odinga said he had not been able to vote because his name was not on the register.
"As you can see this is not by accident but by design," said Odinga, who was eventually able to vote after filing a complaint with the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
"I'm sure we are going to win, not by a narrow margin but by a landslide," he said after casting his ballot.
Kibaki, who voted near the central Kenya town of Nyeri, seemed equally confident of victory. "I am sure we will win. Thank you Kenyans for giving me an opportunity and I will not tire serving you," he said.
Kenya is considered a beacon of democracy and stability in a region plagued by conflict, but its history of electoral violence sparked fears of communal unrest after a campaign loaded with tribal rhetoric.
One man was killed by a mob and an electoral official was stabbed northwest of Nairobi, while one person was shot dead and three wounded during an incident near a polling station in the Kibera slum, police said.
But police stressed the incidents were isolated and welcomed the general order that prevailed.
"Up to now, voting has been peaceful across the country and this peace has allowed some police officers who had been initially deployed to maintain law and order to vote. This is a key development," a senior police official told AFP.
Final opinion polls released last week gave Odinga 43 to 45 percent, ahead of Kibaki's 36.7 to 43 percent. Only a survey conducted by US pollster Gallup showed Kibaki on top, with 44 percent to Odinga's 43 percent.
There are few noticeable ideological differences between the frontrunners but financial circles lean towards Kibaki, under whose tenure Kenya's economy -- the region's largest -- has expanded by an average of five percent a year.
While Odinga has cast himself as the candidate of change and the champion of the poor, Kibaki has advocated continuity despite being criticised for failing to tackle corruption and deliver constitutional reforms.
Kalonzo Musyoka, a 54-year-old born again Christian who was in Odinga's party until a few months ago, is tipped to come in third, while six other candidates are expected to record negligible scores.
Kenyans are also electing 210 members of parliament and more than 2,000 local councillors, with some observers predicting that increasingly demanding voters could oust up to 70 percent of sitting MPs.
Polls close in Kenyan election
Thu Dec 27, 4:07 PM
Kenyans went to the polls Thursday to choose a new president, as well as national and local legislators.
Observers said the main race, between President Mwai Kibaki and his former ally-turned-challenger Raila Odinga, was too close to call.
After violence left hundreds dead in the pre-election period, voting day was relatively calm.
There was one report of a death of a man suspected of bribing voters, and three police officers were stoned to death in western Kenya on Wednesday, after being accused of trying to rig the vote.
There was also little evidence of election fraud, said European Union election monitor Alexander Gaf Lambsdorff. "But we should keep in mind that the counting and the tally are still ahead."
The polls closed at 9 a.m. ET, but official results are not expected until late Thursday or early Friday.
Kibaki, 76, was elected in 2002 after the Kenya African National Union ruled for 39 years. He pledged to reduce corruption, and is credited with improving the economy.
Odinga, 62, has his power base in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. He has promised to help the poor.
There are 14 million registered voters in the country who also voted for 210 members of parliament and local councillors.
With files from the Associated Press
Raila finally votes
Published on December 27, 2007, 12:00 am
By Peter Opiyo
East African Standard Online
ODM presidential candidate Mr Raila Odinga finally voted on Thursday at 12.36pm.
Earlier in the morning, Raila and his wife, Ida, had failed to cast their votes because his name was allegedly missing from the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) LangÕata constituency voter register.
Raila, who had come to the station at 9.50am, was forced to rush to ECK offices at KICC, when he learned there was a problem with the voter register.
Tension and confusion reigned at Old Kibera Primary School when it was discovered that apart from Raila, names of other voters were missing from the register.
Some voters whose surnames start with letters O, P, Q, R, A and W were affected in an incident that forced the ECK chairman, Mr Samuel Kivuitu to visit the centre.
Incidentally, bearers of names with these initials hail from communities where ODM presidential candidate enjoys a large following.
Kivuitu who came later, found himself in trouble as angry voters animatedly sought explanations over the anomaly. Police rescued him from the angry crowd.
He promised to look into the matter urgently and pledged to compensate for the voting time lost.
Raila and his wife, Ida, later voted at 12.36pm after the anomaly had been rectified.
Addressing the Press after casting his ballot, Raila said the scenario was an indication that the government wanted to rig polls.
Said he: 'This is definitely a scheme to rig polls. The Government's intention was to rig me out of Langata constituency, but it will fail.'
Earlier, ECK Commissioner Jack Tumwa had assured him that a full register would be availed to all the affected polling stations.
Tumwa attributed the mishap to splitting of registers using alphabetical order.
"No name has been deleted from the register. All names are there," Tumwa assured the Press at KICC where the ECK has set up a media centre.
But in a nine-minute interview, that also saw him address ARD-German TV journalists in German, Raila said he was disappointed by the anomaly, taking note that ECK had all the time to rectify any mistake.
Despite this, he stated that he would win with a landslide given that he enjoys countrywide support.
Raila played down the hitch saying it was unlikely to affect the polls results countrywide.
There had been earlier reports that members of President Mwai Kibaki's PNU had hatched a scheme to lock Raila out of Langata in a bid to bar him from ascending to power if ODM wins the General Election.
Raila is Kibaki's main challenger in the State House duel. Various opinion polls had put Raila ahead of Kibaki by at least four points.
Kenyans vote in close election, violence feared
27 December 2007 01:29
Guarded by police, Kenyans voted on Thursday in a presidential election preceded by violence, tainted by allegations of rigging and likely to be the closest in more than four decades since independence from Britain.
President Mwai Kibaki (76) having unseated the East African country's 24-year ruling party in 2002, himself faces the possibility of losing power, despite a sound economic record.
Challenger Raila Odinga -- a businessman and former political prisoner under Kibaki's predecessor Daniel arap Moi -- has garnered support among members of tribes who believe the president's Kikuyu tribe have had it too good.
As dawn broke, thousands of people from the humid coast to the shantytowns and lush highlands queued at polling stations, many guarded by armed security forces.
"Kibaki is a true leader, he will win," said businesswoman Wanjiku Muteru in Kibaki's Othaya constituency, a tea-and-coffee-growing area.
"It is a shame there are loud-mouthed people spoiling his name. These selfish elements are only thinking with their stomachs," she said.
In the Lake Victoria town of Kisumu, Joseph Onyango was equally convinced that Kibaki's rival Odinga would win.
"It's now or never for Raila. Among the 42 tribes in Kenya, Raila has support in each and every one except the Kikuyus."
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) held a small lead over Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) in polls leading up to the vote, which began at 6am (3am GMT).
Most political analysts say the outcome is too close to predict.
While some analysts say the possibility of a second transfer of power in two elections demonstrates the maturity of Kenya's democracy, others fear it heightens the prospects of trouble.
Despite the formal end of campaigning, there was frantic political manoeuvring by both sides on the eve of election, with the opposition accusing the government of planning fraud.
Mobs in the western opposition heartland of Nyanza province killed at least three policemen and beat up a dozen others accused of being disguised as PNU party agents to gain access to polling stations and stuff ballot boxes.
Keen to preserve Kenya's reputation as an oasis of stability in a turbulent region, Kibaki denied the fraud allegations.
He said in a statement on Wednesday the government had no intention of rigging the voting and urged Kenya's 14-million voters to "let fair play, honesty and democracy prevail".
Although it has never suffered the all-out wars that have ravaged many of its neighbours, Kenya nevertheless has a history of election violence, and people were braced for more.
In Kenya's biggest slum, part of Odinga's Nairobi constituency, his supporters built bonfires to keep a vigil over polling stations as truckloads of military police patrolled the rubbish-strewn streets.
Kibaki supporters say his record on stability and development -- including 5% average annual economic growth -- means he deserves another five-year term.
Odinga supporters, however, say the president has betrayed Kenyans by failing to stamp out corruption.
While 62-year-old Odinga's outspokenness contrasts with Kibaki's more measured character, they differ little in policy.
Both are pledging to increase economic growth, provide free secondary education, and consolidate democratic advances.
Voting ends at 5pm (2pm GMT).
First official results are expected on Friday afternoon, but Kenyan media may give a picture overnight.
The winner will be the candidates who receives more votes than his closest challenger, plus 25 percent in five of the eight provinces.
Election view from 'forgotten Kenya'
Business Recorder, Pakistan
(December 28 2007)--Visitors to north-east Kenya from the capital Nairobi are sometimes asked "How's Kenya?" as if it was a foreign country. The question, offered with real curiosity not irony, shows just how isolated the mainly Muslim and nomadic people of this vast, arid region on the borders of Ethiopia and Somalia feel.
"We have been treated as outcasts, completely sidelined while they pour money into central and eastern," complains Mohamed Ali, deputy head of a school in tatty Mandera town.
With a presidential election, political parties headquartered in Nairobi are finally pledging to focus on development in North Eastern, one of Kenya's eight provinces. But with an electorate of barely 300,000 out of a total 14 million, the territory is clearly not a political priority.
Given the wilful neglect of the past, people give President Mwai Kibaki credit for some improvements, like more bore-holes for water, the most prized commodity in a drought-prone region. Most, however, say he has not done nearly enough - and seldom visited them.
That view, plus resentment over harassment of Muslims in anti-terrorism sweeps, means the province is expected to go for the opposition, which has led Kibaki in polls here. "They don't believe they are part of Kenya and they have good reason to think that," opposition leader Raila Odinga says, though whether he would deliver or not to an area far away from his tribal base is a matter of conjecture.
Their geographical isolation heightened by the total absence of decent roads, the northerners' ethnicity also unites them with tribes across the nearby borders rather than the rest of Swahili-speaking Kenya.
Both British colonialists and successive Kenyan governments have neglected development in the northern territories, leaving them bottom of most social indicators.
Amid a welter of statistics, many jump out. The ratio of qualified doctors to patients, for example, is 1 to 120,000 in North Eastern, compared to 1 to 20,000 in the far more populated Central Province, according to UN figures. Also, 93 percent of women here have no education at all, compared to 3 percent in central, the richest area.
"The social indicators are among the worst in the African continent," says Aadrian Sullivan, humanitarian adviser on Kenya and Somalia for the European Commission's humanitarian aid department ECHO, reeling off shocking malnutrition figures.
"Yet this is a country where people pour in for beach and safari holidays," adds the humanitarian expert for ECHO, a major aid donor to the region, with 16 million euros in 2006.
Northerners complain bitterly that the only proper attention they have had from central government was when soldiers poured into the region after Kenya's independence in 1963 to suppress a pro-Somali secessionist movement. Lasting four years, the "Shifta war", named after the local word for bandit, had far-reaching consequences, with the government keeping the region under a security blanket throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
"They shot dead many people and injured many under torture. They also killed many animals," said 68-year-old Yasin Abdi, recalling the war from his two-room dwelling in Isiolo town. Going back further, British authorities had also closed the unruly region - whose barren lands offered them nothing like the lush central highlands of Kenya - for long periods.
Passes were needed to get in and out. In more recent times, the region has suffered severe drought then floods, decimating livestock. A recovery of sorts is underway, but it is only a matter of time before the next drought hits, aid workers warn.
Humanitarian needs are exacerbated by the rising incidence of cross-border and inter-clan conflict, as the population squabbles over shrinking pasture lands and water access.
And war in Somalia across the border has added to the mix, disrupting trade and sending refugees into Kenya. With their traditional ways of life under greater pressure than ever, most locals are barely subsisting. At a feeding centre run by Action Against Hunger at a village outside Mandera, mother-of-seven Amina Musa Digsi brings her sick two-year-old boy in the hope of enrolling him.
Her story is typical of other women in the queue at a clearing under acacia trees - only two cows and two goats left from the 2005 drought; a sick, 70-year-old husband; and a paltry income when she's lucky enough to find and sell firewood.
A question about the election elicits bewilderment. "I will vote if I am told to vote," Digsi finally muses. Who for? "I don't know any of them. We are women, the politicians don't speak to us.