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Defeated Kenyan PM challenges election results

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Outgoing Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday lodged a formal legal challenge over the outcome of presidential elections that saw him defeated by his rival Uhuru Kenyatta.

The move will be seen as a test of democracy in Kenya, which was rocked by bloody violence after the last disputed polls in 2007, when more than 1,100 were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Odinga's Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) claims the poll was marred by irregularities including changes to the voter register and inflated numbers of registered voters. They also accused the electoral commission of using "poorly selected, designed" electronic equipment to transmit the results.

Odinga asked the Kenyan Supreme Court "to set aside the results of the presidential election as announced on March 9 and the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect... and declare null and void the whole electoral process," according to a CORD statement.

"I have no hesitation whatsoever in lawfully challenging the election outcome," Odinga told supporters and reporters outside his office.

"To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the new constitution and therefore of everything that Kenyans hold dear," he said.

Kenyatta, who avoided a second-round run-off vote by the slimmest of margins to win a majority with just 50.07 percent, beat Odinga -- his closest rival -- by more than 800,000 votes.

Odinga won 43.31 percent of the votes in his third failed attempt at the top job. He said he would abide by the decision of the court and urged Kenyatta to do likewise.

"I have repeatedly indicated my commitment to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling. I invite my brother Uhuru to publically do the same," he said.

The Supreme Court has 14 days in which to deliberate the merits of the case and hand down a ruling.

Kenya's Elections Observation Group, a team of over 7,000 domestic observers, has said that despite "some challenges" with the voting process the poll was "generally credible" and results were consistent with their projections.

International observers have praised the peaceful conduct of the polls but are yet to make any statement on the election outcome.

Kenyatta, one of Africa's richest men, faces trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in July for his alleged role in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 polls.

In a speech on Thursday, said that while he did "not want to deny anybody their democratic right to pursue what they want", Kenyans needed to "focus on taking the country to a higher level instead of engaging in things that will only waste time."

Earlier on Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse around 100 people demonstrating in favour of Odinga at the Supreme Court.

An AFP photographer saw one young man bleeding from a wound to the forehead. Bystanders said he had been struck by a tear gas cannister.

The photographer also saw a man in the crowd pick up a bullet casing from the ground and a CORD official later brandished a second casing.

Nairobi's provincial police chief, however, said only one person was wounded in the vicinity of the court and his injury resulted from an accident.

"One person was wounded. He was running and he fell and hit his head on metal railings," Benson Kibui said.

Kalonzo Musyoka, Odinga's running mate in the March 4 election, accused the police of being heavy-handed and said Kenyans had simply "been trying to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of movement."

But he called on party supporters to remain calm.

"We call on all supporters to give the rule of law a chance. We remain confident justice will be done," he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130316/defeated-kenyan-pm-challenges-election-results-1