Kenya, east Africa’s most stable and economically successful state, is voting in elections seen as a test of its democratic credentials. Queues built up early at polling stations across the country, with people eager to participate in the contest.
Security was also stepped up after a campaign soured by allegations of vote-rigging and fraud. Observers say the true test will be whether the losers accept the result. Kenya enjoys a reputation of stability in what has long been a turbulent region. Fourteen million people are eligible to vote.
The day will see elections for MPs and local officials, but the main focus is on the presidency. The current President, Mwai Kibaki, came to power in 2002, and has overseen a booming economy. But despite his sound record, he faces the possibility of defeat, and his party has been accused of planning to rig the results.
Kibaki’s main challenger is a one-time ally, Raila Odinga. A former political prisoner under the dictator Daniel arap Moi, Odinga’s widespread support comes from people who believe the President’s tribe has had it too good for too long.
The official results are not expected until Friday, although Kenyan media may release unofficial figures overnight. Analysts say the two main candidates are so close politically, the outcome is impossible to predict.