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Kenya’s presidential race has entered its final stage of vote counting with Uhuru Kenyatta stretching out a narrow lead over his main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The national election commission said it expected to announce a final result in the tightly fought presidential election at 0800 GMT on Saturday, extending an already delayed count after earlier saying it would issue a final tally on Friday.
“We will do our final declaration not this evening but [Saturday] morning around 11 o’clock,” Yusuf Nzibo said.
“So please be patient because this is a serious matter. We want to make sure as a commission that our figures are accurate.”
Late on Friday, with just over a quarter of constituencies still to report results, Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, was hovering around the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.
“For some hours now, this has no longer been a race between Odinga and Kenyatta,” Al Jazeera Online’s James Brownsell, reporting from Nairobi, said. “This is now a race between Kenyatta and the 50 percent mark.”
As of Friday night, Kenyatta had won five million votes compared to his rival Odinga’s 4.4 million out of 9.7 million ballots cast.
If no candidate achieves 50 percent in the first round, the top two go to a run-off tentatively set for April. But the Kenyatta and Odinga camps have both raised questions about the vote process, so legal battles could push that date back.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Nairobi, said it was still too close to call.
Turnout was estimated by election officials at more than 70 percent of the 14.3 million eligible voters, who were undeterred by pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.
Kenyatta, 51, who is due to go on trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity linked to the violent aftermath of the last election, had led since results started trickling in after polls closed on Monday.
Despite the delays and technical glitches, international observers have broadly said the vote and count were transparent.
“What has been really impressive thing in this election has been the robustness of public confidence not just in the election commission but also in the credibility and ability of the courts to resolve these problems,” Al Jazeera’s Greste said.
The tallying process – now entering its fourth day – has been marred by allegations from both sides, including charges by Odinga’s party that results had been “doctored”.
The political coalition led by Odinga, currently running in second, called for a stop to a tallying process it said “lacked integrity”.
The statement by Odinga’s running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, said the counting process should be restarted using primary documents from polling stations, but the election commission insisted there was no way to doctor the results.
Kenyatta’s party has also raised concerns over the slow-moving vote count, complaining that the inclusion of spoiled ballots in the overall total could potentially tip the balance in favour of a second round.
Issack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, said the count would not stop and said the vote tally was genuine.
The European Union ambassador to Kenya, Lodewijk Briet, said the vote-counting was sound and should be allowed to continue.
The poll is seen as a critical test for East Africa’s largest economy, whose reputation as a stable democracy was damaged by the bloodshed that followed the last election in which more than 1,000 people were killed.
Much will rest on whether the final result is accepted, and whether any challenges take place in the courts or on the streets.
Though Musyoka, Odinga’s running mate, said his party’s challenge to the vote count was not a call for mass action and urged voters to stay calm and patient.