_44322742_jump203bafp.jpgCounting has continued through the night in polling stations across Kenya, in what is seen as the country’s closest-ever elections. An election official said that turnout could reach 70%. Voting was extended in areas where polls opened several hours late – notably in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. President Mwai Kibaki faces his strongest challenge from his former ally, Raila Odinga, who alleged fraud before the polls opened.

An Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) spokesman told the BBC that turnout had been “massive” – maybe more than 70%. Some say the huge numbers overwhelmed the authorities. Correspondents say that in Kenya’s previous elections, the outcome has been obvious before polling, or at least there has been a strong favourite.

When Mr Odinga first turned up to vote in Kibera, his name was missing from the electoral register – like many other people whose names began with “R” or “O”. The BBC’s Karen Allen in Kibera says this will fuel suspicions of a plot to rig the election, although other say it was merely a bureaucratic mix-up. Mr Odinga, who has led recent opinion polls, was allowed to vote later – to cheering crowds in the constituency he represents in parliament.

Milking delayed
There is tight security around the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, where the results will be announced. The first presidential results are expected on Friday but parliamentary results could be known earlier. Mr Kibaki was able to vote unhindered in the central town of Nyeri. “I am sure we will win. Thank you Kenyans for giving me an opportunity and I will not tire serving you,” he said. People started to queue before dawn on Thursday. “I have not even milked my cow because today we are putting our country first,” said Mary Muthoni Gikiri as she waited to vote in Mr Kibaki’s hometown of Othaya, some 200km (125 miles) from the capital, Nairobi.

The queue of voters stretched for more than a kilometre outside some polling stations. In the North-Eastern Province, one old man collapsed and died while waiting to vote. There were isolated reports of violence. A man was shot dead in Kibera – police say it was criminal, but Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says it was political. At least two other deaths were reported in western Kenya. (Continue Reading…)

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