- By Lara McLeod
On Monday, March 4th, Kenyan citizens came out in masses to vote in the provisional 2013 elections. This election was a surprising display of democratic engagement for Kenya, and a hopeful projection for future peaceful elections. According to Kenyan chairman of the election commission Ahmed Isaack Hassan, not only were there no reported incidences of violence during voting hours, but the voter turnout was over 70 percent. Many voters arrived before dawn to participate. Anthony Wachira spoke for his fellow Kenyan voters when he stated, “We have been waiting for this for the past five years. Above everything, we want to vote for
Preliminary fears of violence in this election stem from the violence from the 2007 election, which sparked approximately six weeks of violence afterward, leaving 1100 people dead and 600,000 people evicted from their homes. In order to prevent incidents of this nature from repeating, close to 100,000 officials were stationed across the country at polling stations. Apart from the frustration at the slow progress of the queues, the mood was generally upbeat and peaceful.
As the results slowly come in, Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, holds a steady lead above his adversary Raila Odinga by more than 10 percent. The polls have been reported as too early to determine, but both candidates seem very confident. Reports show that both Kenyatta and Odinga brimmed with confidence as they placed their votes. Mr. Odinga predicted his victory at the polls while stating, “Today, Kenyans have a date with destiny.” Regardless of confidence and expectations, both candidates have made clear that they will respect the outcome of the election, and assist in preserving peace during this process.
While Kenyatta continues to hold a steady lead in the election, Western world leaders and allies of Kenya are concerned. On Monday, world leaders warned of the “consequences” to come should Mr. Kenyatta prevail in the election without explaining what exactly those consequences will be. Meanwhile, Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are both currently charged with orchestrating widespread violence. Both are facing trial by the International Criminal Court for suspected ethnic violence following the 2007 election.
The 2013 election is a historical landmark for Kenya. Not only is the election process relatively peaceful, but this is the first general election under the new constitution in 47 counties. Thus, many offices are being added to the election, and many more Kenyans were eligible to run for smaller positions than in previous elections. As the polls come to a close, Kenyans wait to see who will lead their country, and remain hopeful for a peaceful society in the future.