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Kenya court orders presidential poll recount for 22 centres

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Kenya's Supreme Court on Monday ordered a recount of votes cast at 22 polling centres, after presidential elections in which a second-round run-off was only avoided by the narrowest of margins.

"Retallying is to be done in 22 polling stations," said Supreme Court judge, Smokin Wanjala.

The counting of the March 4 ballots -- a fraction of the total votes cast in some 32,000 centres nationwide -- is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Official election results showed president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta won 50.07 percent of the vote, only just breaking the first-round threshold by some 8,000 ballots.

Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president and one of Africa's richest men, was declared the winner of the presidential poll on March 9.

But Kenya's new leader faces charges of crimes against humanity related to deadly post-electoral violence in 2007.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it will pursue the charges, meaning that Kenyatta could become the first president to face trial at the Hague-based court shortly after taking office.

Though he only just broke the voting threshold in the March poll, Kenyatta was around 800,000 votes ahead of his closest rival, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga's party and civil society groups have filed separate legal challenges in Kenya's highest court alleging widespread irregularities in the polls.

The panel of six judges have until Saturday to decide whether Kenyatta should be confirmed as Kenya's new president or whether new elections should take place -- a high-stakes test for a country still traumatised by the violence after the last polls five years ago.

The court also ordered the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC) to provide the voter registration list it used in the tally of the presidential vote after an electronic system failed.

"We order the IEBC to provide the principal voter register in its entirety," said Judge Njoki Ndung'u.

The elections in 2007 were marred by similar complaints of fraud and descended into tribal bloodshed that killed more than 1,100 people and caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Despite concern over the risk of violence ahead of the elections this time, no major incidents were reported.

Odinga claims the poll was marred by irregularities including changes to the voter register, inflated numbers of registered voters and technical incompetence by the electoral commission.

He has urged supporters to stay calm while he challenges the outcome, and has promised to abide by the court's decision -- which is expected later this week.

Political loyalties in Kenya are largely based along ethnic lines, and while Kenyatta's majority Kikuyu people and the new-found Kalenjin allies of his running mate William Ruto have celebrated the results, the Luo of Odinga were disappointed at their defeat.

If Kenyatta's win is confirmed, he will become the first leader to take power whilst facing trial in The Hague over the 2007 violence including orchestrating murder, forcible transfer and persecution.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said Monday that the Supreme Court would treat the petitions before it "with objectivity and we shall render our judgement without fear or favour".

"You must trust us to do our jobs," he added. "The duty of this court is to do right... the impact of this decision will extend beyond the parties of this petition."

Odinga, who won 43.31 percent of the votes in his third failed attempt at the top job, has said he will respect the decision of the Supreme Court even if it rules against him.

Kenyatta had also pledged to abide by the ruling, but his camp have attacked Mutunga, 65, for alleged bias -- quoting him as having in the past been openly supportive of Odinga's efforts to win the presidency.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130325/kenya-court-orders-presidential-poll-recount-22-centres-0