NAIROBI – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday the election commission’s computers had been hacked and fake results posted online, in what he described as a “massive” poll fraud to show President Uhuru Kenyatta with a strong lead.
However, the election commission said Tuesday’s vote was free and fair. It said it was investigating whether or not its computer systems and vote-tallying database had been compromised but had not had a problem with its passwords.
Odinga’s statement, which was based on his belief that a murdered election commission technician had his identity stolen, raised concerns of unrest over the results in Kenya, which has East Africa’s biggest economy and is a regional hub.
Angry protests broke out in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu, with at least one man killed by police. It evoked memories of a disputed election in 2007, when around 1,200 people died and 600,000 were displaced in ethnic violence.
Speaking at a news conference, Odinga urged his supporters to remain calm but added: “I don’t control the people”. His deputy Kalonzo Musyoka struck a similar tone and said the opposition might call for unspecified “action” at a later date.
Shortly after Odinga spoke, police fired teargas to scatter a group of 100 supporters in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold where unarmed men marched through the streets waving sticks and chanting “No Raila, no peace”.
They later used live rounds to disperse another group, while a pro-Odinga protester was shot dead by police in a Nairobi slum, witnesses said.
As of 1630 GMT, the election commission website put Kenyatta in front with 54.3 percent of votes counted to 44.8 percent for Odinga – a margin of 1.4 million ballots with 97 percent of polling stations reported.
Odinga published his own party’s assessment of the count on Twitter, saying he had 8.1 million votes against 7.2 million for Kenyatta but published no supporting documentation.
The main local election monitoring group said its parallel vote tally was incomplete so it could not comment on the differing figures.
Foreign observer missions declined to comment but urged all parties to stay calm while results were cross-checked with paper records.
Kenyatta, a 55-year-old businessman seeking a second five-year term, had held a steady lead of around 10 percent since the start of counting after Tuesday’s peaceful vote, the culmination of a hard-fought contest between the heads of Kenya’s two political dynasties.
Odinga, 72, a former political prisoner and self-described leftist, described the reported hack as an attack on Kenya’s democracy and published 50 pages of computer logs on his Facebook page to support his claims.
Despite its multi-million dollar electronic voting system, the crucial evidence on voting comes from the paper forms signed at each of the country’s 41,000 polling stations.
Results in each polling station are recorded on a form – known as 34A – that observers from each party must sign. These are then scanned and sent to the election board for posting online, a measure designed to combat rigging.
The commission said it was working flat out to post all 41,000 forms online.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission, a well-known non-governmental organisation, said it had discovered some discrepancies between provisional results on the election commission website and the paper forms.
Of 112 polling stations sampled by Reuters from across the country, two thirds had a match between the electronic and paper results. The rest either had no online scan of the 34A form, or the photographs were illegible or of something else.
There were no demonstrably false results.
Odinga ran in Kenya’s last two elections and lost, blaming vote rigging following irregularities on both occasions.
In 2007, tallying was halted and the incumbent president declared the winner, triggering an outcry from Odinga’s camp and waves of ethnic violence that led to International Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his now-deputy, William Ruto.
The cases against them collapsed as witnesses died or disappeared.
In 2013, Odinga took his concerns to court.
This time, Odinga invoked the unsolved torture and murder of top election official Chris Msando days before the vote to justify his rigging fears.
“We fear this was exactly the reason Chris Msando was assassinated, so this could happen,” he said.
Kenya’s shilling firmed and bond prices rose on early results, before retreating in the wake of the claims by Odinga, who is seen as less pro-business than Kenyatta.
“Kenyatta’s provisional win will soothe those investors who feared a leftist shift in economic policy,” said Hasnain Malik, global head of equities research at Exotix Capital.
“The most important issues are ahead of us: Does Odinga concede peacefully? His initial rhetoric suggests there is a risk he does not.”
Kenya’s B+ credit rating and stable outlook won’t be affected by its election as long as there is no repeat of the 2007 violence, the S&P Global agency said.