Low Turnout in Kenya Repeat Vote as Deadly Clashes Continue

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and TOM ODULA

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Clashes between Kenyan police and opposition supporters continued in several areas on Friday, a day after an opposition boycott of the repeat presidential election led to a sharply lower turnout. One man was shot dead, raising the death toll since Thursday’s vote to at least five.

Also Friday, church leaders in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu said the electoral commission should not hold voting there on Saturday because it will lead to more bloodshed. At a news conference, the leaders said they feared a police crackdown if authorities proceed with voting in areas where polling stations did not open Thursday because of security problems.

The electoral commission said voting would take place Saturday in four out of Kenya’s 47 counties because of the unrest. Four deaths were reported Thursday.

A man was shot dead Friday in western Kenya’s Bungoma County, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Kenyan television also showed footage of police firing tear gas in Migori County, another opposition stronghold.

The election commission said about 6.5 million people, or one-third of registered voters, went to the polls on Thursday. The turnout was much lower than the nearly 80 percent of registered voters who participated in the Aug. 8 election that later was nullified by the Supreme Court over irregularities, a decision seen as precedent-setting for Africa.

Thursday’s count was based on results from 267 out of Kenya’s 290 constituencies, said Wafula Chebukati, the electoral commission chairman.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote; opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the vote being nullified, withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms. He urged supporters to boycott the new vote.

Not a single ballot box was delivered to 190 polling stations in central Kisumu city on Thursday, said a senior election official, John Ngutai Muyekho. He sat with the uncollected boxes in a school guarded by security forces.

The Supreme Court’s decision was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential vote. The ruling was sharply criticized by Kenyatta, who seeks a second term. After voting Thursday, he said he will work to unify the country if re-elected.

“What we have is a problem of tribalism, and tribalism is an issue that we must continue to deal with and fight with as we continue to develop our country,” Kenyatta said.

Many observers say Kenya’s ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Kenyatta, who got 54 percent of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu group; Odinga, who got nearly 45 percent in the earlier election, is a Luo.

Odinga and Kenyatta also faced off in a 2013 election similarly marred by opposition allegations of vote-rigging. The opposition leader also ran unsuccessfully in 2007, and ethnic-fueled animosity after that vote killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes.

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