Polls opened in Kenya’s contentious election re-run Thursday morning, with the country tense after weeks of protests and political turmoil.
The re-run comes after the Supreme Court threw out the results of August elections – won by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta – finding them “neither transparent nor verifiable.”
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who initially demanded the fresh election, said he is not contesting the new polls as his demands for electoral reform were not met.
On the eve of the election, Odinga called on supporters to stay home, while rival Kenyatta urged them to turn out and vote in large numbers.
Odinga warned supporters that there could be violence from security forces, more of whom have been deployed ahead of the vote.
Both he and Kenyatta urged Kenyans to refrain from violence.
Eight parties, including Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, are contesting Thursday’s polls, but analysts have warned that the president risks appearing illegitimate if he wins the polls without Odinga in the running.
The fresh election follows an August vote whose result, a Kenyatta victory, was annulled by the Supreme Court due to procedural irregularities.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will not take part in the re-run election.
In a statement, the U.S. embassy called for calm from all sides but acknowledged that the vote had been damaging to regional stability.
“Following this election, there must be immediate, sustained, open and transparent dialogue involving all Kenyans to resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated,” it said.
Speaking on the eve of the vote, Kenyatta assured his countrymen and Kenya’s allies that order would be restored.
“I tell all our international partners that we will get through this,” he said. “We cannot remain in a perpetual state of politicking.”
On Jan. 2, 2008, Kenya’s disputed presidential election triggers an explosion of violence that has killed more than 275 people, including dozens burned alive as they sought refuge in a church.
The crisis was a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that erupted in Kenya after former President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on Dec. 27, 2007.
Supporters of Kibaki’s opponent, Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, alleged electoral manipulation.
This was widely confirmed by international observers, as being perpetrated by both parties in the election.