Ruto declared winner of Kenya’s presidential election: live results and news

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NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto has won the country’s presidential election, the head of the electoral commission said on Monday, days after a cliffhanger vote in a country that is vital to the economy and to the security of East Africa.

Mr Ruto won 50.5% of the vote, narrowly beating Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula W. Chebukati said. This percentage is sufficient to avoid a second round.

But minutes before the result was announced, four of the seven commission members said they could not verify the result. The statement immediately raised questions about the legitimacy of the outcome and is likely to feature in any challenge to Kenya’s Supreme Court by supporters of Mr Odinga.

A legal challenge could, in the short term, prolong a period of uncertainty in a nation whose democracy is under close scrutiny by the continent and the world.

Kenyan law allows the outcome of an election to be challenged within a week – a prospect that many observers considered a virtual certainty.

Shortly after the announcement of the results, Mr. Ruto delivered a speech in which he accepted victory, thanked his supporters and pledged to work for the good of the country.

“There is no place for revenge, there is no place to look back, we are looking to the future,” he said. “I am fully aware that our country is at a stage where we need everyone on deck to take it forward. We don’t have the luxury of looking back.

Celebrations erupted in the streets of the town of Eldoret, a stronghold of Mr Ruto in the Rift Valley, with a deafening cacophony of car and motorbike horns honking, whistling and shouting through the downtown streets.

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Speaking to reporters later, Mr Ruto called the statement by the four election commissioners a “sideshow”. By law, he said, election results could be announced by Mr. Chebukati and no one else.

“Legally, constitutionally, the four commissioners pose no threat to the legality of the declaration,” he said.

Mr Ruto, 55, a wealthy businessman, has presented himself as the champion of Kenya’s ‘hustler nation’ – the disillusioned, mostly young wrestlers struggling to establish themselves. His announced victory appears as a repudiation of his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had campaigned for Mr Odinga.

But a question mark now hangs over the outcome due to a statement Electoral Commission Vice President Juliana Cherera made moments before the election results were announced. She said she was speaking on behalf of four of the country’s seven commissioners who could not take ownership of the results due to the “opaque nature” of election management.

Late Monday, a spokesman for Mr. Odinga, Dennis Onsarigo, wrote on Twitter that the former prime minister planned to address the nation on Tuesday.

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Supporters of Mr Odinga began protesting after the announcement. In Kisumu county, a major stronghold for Mr Odinga, hundreds of people who had been anxiously awaiting the announcement of the results, began protesting and burning tires, witnesses said.

Mr. Odinga, who ran four other times for the presidency, was exceptionally critical of the counting process even before the results were announced.

“It was the worst-run election in Kenya’s history,” Saitabao Ole Kanchory, Mr Odinga’s chief electoral officer, told reporters outside the national counting centre. He called the Nairobi counting center a “crime scene” and said those responsible for counting “should be arrested”. He made no immediate reaction to Mr. Ruto’s declaration of victory.

Defeat would be a blow to Odinga’s home region in western Kenya, as well as to his fellow Luos, the country’s fourth largest ethnic group. Many Luos say they have been unfairly barred from the presidency since independence and Mr Odinga was denied victory in 2007 when the vote count showed him in the lead before he was finally declared losing.

This election led to ethnic and political violence in which more than 1,200 people were killed and tens of thousands more were forced to flee their homes.

Declan Walsh and Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Eldoret, Kenya.

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