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Keen sense of urgency at Bomas as Kenyans await election 'white smoke'

The two top contenders, Azimio la Umoja candidate Raila Odinga and Deputy President Wiliam Ruto (right), have not garnered the 50 plus 1 magic number. [File, Standard]

The August 9 election has gone to the wire. What was too close for the two top contenders is now too far with both aiming to return 50 per cent plus one vote to clinch the coveted seat.

As at 8pm on Thursday, out of 129 constituencies, whose results were posted by the IEBC of the 290 constituencies and Diaspora vote, Azimio candidate Raila Odinga was leading with 2,985,321 (49.45 per cent), Deputy President Wiliam Ruto was a close second with 2,972,724 (42.24 per cent) none of them had managed to garner the 50 plus 1 magic number.

The total valid votes were 5,994,317 while the rejected votes were 43,056. The other candidates managed: George Wajackoyah (Roots Party) had 29,254 while David Mwaure had 12,015.

A runoff is becoming imminent if there is no shift in the results.

At the Bomas of Kenya, the national election tallying centre in Nairobi, there was a sense of urgency Thursday, August 11, 2022, with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission pulling all stops to verify results.

After two days of relative calm, the venue roared to life as presidential agents trooped in their numbers.

In the early days mostly media and IEBC staff, members of different observer groups and political party agents were present at Bomas. The journey to Form 34C, the document IEBC will produce to declare the winner of the race, however, kicked into high gear yesterday.

Azimio presidential agents Caroline Karugu and lawyer Paul Mwangi as well as those from the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Josphat Nanok and Secretary General Veronicah Maina have been camping at Bomas since Tuesday to make check the presidential tallying exercise.

Inside a ring on the floor of the auditorium, the party agents and members of the campaign, some still processing defeats in their own elections, hovered from one table to the next confirming that indeed the results presented to the IEBC matched their own.

Whenever a Constituency Returning Officer walked into the room - only about three had arrived at Bomas by 4pm - Ms Karugu would gesture to her colleagues in Azimio who were keeping tally.

Three, she signalled with her fingers.

But with the media tallies indicating a narrowing gap between Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio flag bearer Raila Odinga, more leaders Thursday made their way to Bomas.

They included Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, nominated MP Wilson Sossion, former Kenyan ambassador to Pakistan Julius Bitok and DP Ruto’s head of international relations Ababu Namwamba.

Gladys Shollei (left), Josphat Nanok and a host of other Kenya Kwanza allied leaders at the Bomas of Kenya. [Samson Wire, Standard]

ODM Chairman John Mbadi, Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Azimio executive director Raphael Tuju also graced the venue briefly. You could also tell from the floor of the auditorium that this is an election on a knife’s edge.

When the agents are not focused on the regular briefings by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, they are making phone calls briefing their superiors.

And when they are done, they are back to hurdling around Chebukati on whose shoulders lie the expectations of the more than 50 million Kenyans.

For a brief moment on Thursday afternoon, UDA agents faced off with Azimio, curious why they were talking to the IEBC commissioners. 

“This is a hard-fought and tight race. From the word go we knew whoever wins this election will not do so with a big margin. The most important thing for us is attaining the 50-plus one per cent vote. From our tallies, we are confident we have won this election,” said Governor Muriithi.

In the 2013 General Election, Jubilee Candidate Uhuru Kenyatta managed to scrape through by 0.07 per cent. He was elected by 6,173,433 (50.07 per cent). The tight race is also reminiscent of the 2009 Ghanaian election where John Atta Mills garnered 4,521,032 votes, or about 50.2 per cent of the total votes cast to be declared winner against the incumbent Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who got 49.77 per cent of the total valid votes cast in a runoff. So tight was the race that the electoral commission had to wait for the last constituency to tally for a winner to be declared.

And for the 2022 election, the venue got a befitting facelift. 

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is also eager to put its own touch on the venue. There is Utamaduni Restaurant is the venue, and for the purpose of this election, there is Uchaguzi Restaurant.

If the police checks at the entrance – sniffer dogs, pat-downs, metal detectors, ID cards and accreditation checks - were strict at the beginning, they now seem cursory in the face of beefed-up security as the focus shifts from balloting to tallying.

Caroline Karugu (right), Kajiado Central MP Elijah Memusi and other Azimio-allied leaders at the Bomas of Kenya. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Law enforcement has erected a roadblock on the road leading into Karen.

Inside the venue, there’s extra vigilance by special forces. You can’t move 100m without bumping into a law enforcement officer who can summon you and demand to verify your credentials.

Meanwhile, IEBC has warned candidates in areas where elections were suspended against engaging in campaigns.

On Monday, the electoral agency partially halted the voting exercise in Mombasa and Kakamega counties for the governor seats over the ballot paper mix-up.

Elections for MPs in Pokot South and Kacheliba constituencies were also suspended. The suspensions were occasioned by errors on the ballot papers such as wrong images and details.

“We have not opened up the campaign period and so the suspension still applies. We will do the elections immediately after we conclude this,” said IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye.

Chebukati also urged the public to only rely on results announced by the commission and ignore misinformation on social media.