NAIROBI, Kenya - Polls closed across Kenya after millions voted peacefully Tuesday in a fiercely contested election pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga in the East African country known for its stability but also its divided ethnic allegiances.
Long lines formed at many of Kenya’s 40,000 polling stations before dawn, but the Kenyan election commission tweeted in the evening that the balloting concluded “with minimal hitches.” Some sites remained open to process those people still waiting to cast their votes.
In preliminary results, Kenyatta was ahead with 55.4 percent while Odinga had 43.9 percent after votes from nearly one-quarter of 40,883 polling stations had been counted, according to the Kenyan election commission.
Authorities hope to avoid the post-election violence a decade ago when ethnic divisions fueled unrest that killed more than 1,000 people. A 2013 vote was mostly peaceful despite opposition allegations of vote-tampering.
Reaction to the result could partly depend on the performance of Kenya’s electoral commission, which will collect and count the ballots in the coming days. In addition to the bitterly contested presidential race, more than 1,800 elected positions were at stake, including governors, legislative representatives and county officials.
By law, election officials have up to a week to announce results, though many analysts believe the outcome of the presidential race will be declared far sooner, possibly within one or two days.