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Kenya vote winner gets 50.07 pct; loser challenges

Sunday - 3/10/2013, 1:58am  ET

Police officers with the General Service Unit engage in running battles with supporters of Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga, shortly after the announcement that his opponent Uhuru Kenyatta had won the presidential election, in Kisumu, Kenya Saturday, March 9, 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta - the son of Kenya's founding father and a man accused by an international court of helping orchestrate the vicious violence that marred the nation's last vote - was certified as the winner on Saturday of Kenya's presidential election by the slimmest majority - 50.07 percent. (AP Photo)

RODNEY MUHUMUZA
Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding father, was named the winner of the country's presidential election on Saturday with 50.07 percent of the vote, but his opponent refused to concede, alleging multiple failures in the election's integrity that he said has put Kenyan democracy on trial.

Supporters of Kenyatta -- a man accused by an international court of helping to orchestrate the vicious violence that marred the nation's last vote -- flooded the streets, celebrating in a parade of red, his campaign's color.

Refusing to accept defeat, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the election process experienced multiple failures as he announced plans to petition the Supreme Court. Odinga asked for calm and for Kenyans to love one another, a call that may help prevent a repeat of the 2007-08 violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed and that brought Kenya to the edge of civil war.

Kenyatta's slim margin of victory increases the focus on a multitude of electoral failures that occurred during the six-day voting and counting process. Kenyatta surpassed the 50-percent level needed to avoid a runoff by just over 8,000 votes out of 12.3 million cast.

The United States, Britain and the European Union gave Kenya's new political era a chilly reception. All released statements congratulating the Kenyan people but none mentioned Kenyatta by name. The West had made it clear before the vote that it would not welcome a President Kenyatta.

Kenyatta faces trial in July at the International Criminal Court over allegations he orchestrated the murder, forcible deportation, persecution and rape of Odinga's supporters in the aftermath of the 2007 vote. Kenyatta, as president, may have to spend large chunks of his first years in Kenya's highest office in a courtroom in The Hague.

The United States previously warned of "consequences" if Kenyatta wins, the nature of which depends on what happens in coming months. Britain has said it would have only essential contact with Kenyatta as president.

In his acceptance speech, Kenyatta gave a nod to the ICC, saying he recognizes the nation's international obligations. He pledged to continue to cooperate with "international institutions," but he also said he expects the international community to "respect our sovereignty and the democratic will of the people of Kenya."

Kenyatta was immediately afforded the state security for a president-elect, traveling in a shiny black convoy from the tallying center to his election headquarters. In his speech, he thanked Odinga -- calling him "my brother" -- for a spirited campaign.

"Today we celebrate the triumph of democracy, the triumph of peace, the triumph of nationhood," he said, adding later: "My pledge to you is that as your president I will work on behalf of all citizens regardless of political affiliation. I will honor the will of Kenyans and ensure that my government protects their rights and acts without fear or favor, in the interests of our nation."

If Kenyatta's victory holds, the son of Jomo Kenyatta will become the fourth president of Kenya since its independence from British colonial rule in 1963.

In the wake of the Kenyatta's victory, minor skirmishes were reported, including youths setting tires on fire in the western city of Kisumu, Odinga's home region. But no major violence was confirmed around Kenya.

Government officials have been working for months to avoid the postelection violence that brought Kenya to the brink of civil war five years ago, when more than 600,000 people were forced from their homes after President Mwai Kibaki -- a Kikuyu like Kenyatta -- was pronounced the winner over Odinga, a Luo.

The election commission held a dramatic midday televised announcement where officials appealed to Kenyans to accept the results with grace.

"There can be victory without victims," said Ahmed Issack Hassan, the chairman of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Francis Eshitemi, an Odinga supporter in Nairobi's largest slum, Kibera, said it was clear his candidate had lost in a free and fair election and that he expected him to concede.

"The problem is that Raila doesn't have the numbers. There were a few irregularities, but the gap between Raila and Uhuru is big," he said.

Isaac Khayiya, another Odinga supporter, said: "This time we want postelection peace, not war. We will be the ones to suffer if there is violence. For them -- Uhuru, Ruto, Odinga -- they have security and they are rich."

The final results showed that Kenyatta won 6,173,433 votes -- 50.07 percent -- to Odinga's 5,340,546 -- 43.3 percent. More than 12, 330,000 votes were cast, a record turnout of 86 percent registered voters.

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