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Kenya election: Voters endure long lines to cast ballots

Posted August 7
Updated August 8

Long lines formed across Kenya on Tuesday as voters waited to cast their ballots in a hotly contested election that pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against former prime minister Raila Odinga.

Latest developments

- Kenyatta and long-time rival Odinga polling neck and neck- Minor technical issues have been reported and are being addressed - officials - Polls closed at 5 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) but those already in line, or in an area affected by delays, will be allowed to vote

Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president and the country's youngest leader at 55, is seeking a second five-year term. If he loses, he'll make history as the only incumbent president not to win re-election.

Odinga, who's running for president for the fourth time, served as prime minister between 2008 and 2013 and is the incumbent's main challenger.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) spokesman Andrew Limo said turnout looked "huge" as Kenyans cast ballots at more than 40,000 polling stations on Tuesday.

Limo acknowledged claims of malfunctioning voting machines, which have circulated online, saying there have been "three or four cases of malfunction where the system needed restarting" but added that for the most part things have "gone well."

The IEBC said in a statement that extra ICT support staff have been brought into service to resolve minor technical issues.

Videos circulated on social media of skirmishes and tear gas allegedly being used in some parts of the country, but CNN has not witnessed any evidence of violence thus far. The atmosphere at several polling stations in Nairobi was relaxed as Kenyans came out in droves, eagerly queuing in orderly lines to vote.

"We are eager to choose our leaders, even in the rain," one voter, Susan Mukami, told CNN at the Moi Avenue Primary School polling station located in Nairobi.

Kenyan YouTube personality and radio presenter Xtian Dela said he'd waited four hours to cast his first ever vote in Nairobi.

"[I] am super excited about the election this year ... I just had to exercise my civic duty: To hire and fire my employees," he told CNN.

Dela added: "I voted for leaders who I believe will end tribalism. Don't get me wrong, health, jobs, economy, etc are very important. But what's the need of having all that if we are hating on each other?"

Dela also posted a video on Twitter showing voters cheering for "an amazing 90-year-old granny who came out in the cold to vote," he said.

Other voters shared photographs on social media of their fingers marked with purple dye, which is being used by election officials to ensure people only vote once.

Kenya's Elections Observation Group (ELOG) said over 8,000 representatives had been deployed to all 47 counties and 290 constituencies in an effort to ensure a fair democratic process.

ELOG said some of its observers had been denied access to polling stations while others had their phones confiscated upon arrival. It said that authorities were working speedily to resolve issues but nine observers are still unable to enter their assigned stations.

The group also noted delays at voting stations due to the late arrival of polling materials and officials.

Fears of violence

Kenya's last election in 2013 was mainly peaceful, but a decade ago, the country plunged into widespread violence in the aftermath of the 2007 vote.

More than 1,000 people were killed in months of bloodshed following the 2007 election after Odinga -- defeated by then-President Mwai Kibaki -- claimed the vote was rigged.

Odinga, 72, has accused Kenyatta of attempting to rig this year's election. Kenyatta in turn has said Odinga is attempting to divide the country.

As Kenyatta cast his ballot, he said he would be willing to step called on his long-time rival to step down should he lose,

Related: Fake news targets voters

The killing of a senior election official days before the election sparked tensions last week. Chris Msando was head of information technology for Kenya's Integrated Electoral Management System. While his department was responsible for voter identification and result transmission technology for the elections, it's unclear whether his killing was related to the election.

Leading up to the poll, wary residents stocked up on food and water amid fears of a return to violence.

A razor-thin margin

Results are not expected until Wednesday at the earliest, but with the predicted margin between the two leading presidential candidates razor thin, it could be several days before a winner can be declared.

Heavy rain overnight hampered transport in some parts of the country, causing delays at polling stations. The IEBC extended voting hours in the affected areas and deployed helicopters to ferry materials and polling officials to the stations.

Local "boda boda" (motorbike taxi) drivers told CNN they had been ferrying people to their local stations for free.

More than 11,000 polling stations -- around a quarter of the total -- are without decent cell phone coverage, meaning returning officers have to use satellite phones and other means to transmit results.

Officially, the electoral commission has up to a week to announce the outcome.

Almost 20 million people are registered to vote, and more than 14,000 candidates are running in elections to choose a new president as well as members of parliament, senators, governors and local councilors.

The youth vote is highly coveted -- young people between the ages of 18 and 35 make up 51% of the country's registered voters.

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