Vote counting begins after largely peaceful election in Kenya

Style Magazine Newswire | 3/5/2013, 11:58 a.m.
Vote counting began here Monday after largely peaceful elections in which millions of voters stood in line to choose their ...
Polls open in Kenya elections

Elsewhere, ETV correspondent Soni Methu told CNN that her crew came across the bodies of five people at a polling station in the coastal town of Kilifi. Two of the bodies were wearing police uniforms; one had on a Kenya Wildlife Service uniform, Methu told CNN.

In Mandera -- near the border with Somalia and Ethiopia -- witnesses said bombs exploded at two polling stations. Red Cross Mandera Coordinator Abdi Ahmed said three people were slightly wounded.

And in the Kenyan town of Kitengela, south of Nairobi, at least 20 people were hospitalized after a stampede at a polling station, CNN affiliate NTV reported.

But voting in the rest of the country was largely peaceful. "We want a leader who would be mindful of people who are living below the poverty line," one enthusiastic young man told CNN as he waited for his turn to vote. "You see, the majority of Kenyan people live below the poverty line, so we want a leader who will be mindful of these people."

Read why this election is important

The stakes are high. After the 2007 election, the government boosted security and set up an ambitious new constitution, making this election one of the nation's most complicated polls since the country gained independence from Britain in 1963.

Eight contenders are vying for the presidency, including front-runners Odinga, the prime minister; and his deputy, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Read about the main players

Polls show a tight race, raising the possibility of a second round of voting. Kenya's constitution calls for a runoff within a month of the results if no candidate gets more than half of the vote.

Reforms, changes

After the last election, the nation also revamped various political systems, including the constitution, the electoral process and the judicial system. The new system aims to empower citizens and local governments, thereby ensuring a peaceful election.

"It is one thing to change the constitution, but we have to change our underlying issues of ethnic sentiments that have dated years," said Mark Kamau, who lives in the capital, Nairobi.

After the last election, Odinga disputed results that declared the winner to have been the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki. Odinga alleged the election had been rigged.

Protesters took to the streets, where supporters of both camps fought one another. More than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced -- the worst violence since the nation gained independence.

Optimistic, but prepared

Leading up to this election, the candidates declared they would settle any election disputes in court.

Candidates have implored their supporters to avoid bloodshed, no matter the vote's outcome.

But some citizens remained wary.

"I don't know what possessed people last time," Kamau said of the violence. "I hope there will be no violence. I'm waiting for Kenya to restore my faith this time."

But as he waits, he is prepared. His refrigerator is stocked and his car is filled with fuel.

"Just in case," he said. "You never know."