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US-KENYA-ELECTIONS:Anxiety builds as Kenyans wait for presidential winner
By George Obulutsa and James Macharia
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan authorities said the outcome of the country's presidential election would not be compromised by the failure of electronic vote counting technology that has delayed results for a third day.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is due to go on trial for crimes against humanity linked to the violent aftermatch of the last election in 2007, has led since results started trickling in after polls closed on Monday.
But some strongholds loyal to his rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga have yet to declare their results.
Kenyatta's lead appeared to have been eroded subsequently, but it was too early to predict the outcome. At 1.45 a.m. on Thursday (05.45 p.m. EST on Wednesday), Kenyatta had 1,119,761 votes to Odinga's 819,573 from a handful of constituencies.
Election officials had said turnout was more than 70 percent of the 14.3 million eligible voters.
If neither major candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, Kenyatta, 51, and Odinga, 68, would have to face each other in an April run-off, prolonging the uncertainty.
Ahmed Issack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission, said vote counting could be concluded at the earliest on Friday or drag on to Monday, the last day on which by law the results must be made public.
"I also want to emphasize that the fact that we are now abandoning the electronic voter transmission does not in any way mean that the integrity of the results which we are being announced are compromised," Hassan told a news conference.
Kenyans are waiting to see if politicians will respect the results this time. Five years ago some rejected the outcome unleashing weeks of ethnic killing.
About 1,200 people were slaughtered in politically-fueled tribal violence when president Mwai Kibaki was declared the victor over Odinga amid charges of voting fraud.
With the memory of the fighting fresh in their minds, many Kenyans were anxious over the delays. "If you are waiting for something eagerly and you're not getting it, you will always be frustrated, but we have to control our tempers as we don't really know what's going on," said Modesty Maewida, 38, a hotel worker in Mombasa.
Computer servers used by the election commission to handle voting data were overwhelmed, Hassan said.
Despite technical glitches, European Union chief observer Alojz Peterle said the vote was credible and transparent so far.
The United States and other Western nations, big donors that view Kenya as vital in the regional battle with militant Islam, have already indicated that a victory by Kenyatta would complicate diplomatic relations.
Kenyatta, son of Kenya's founding president Jomo Kenyatta, and his running mate, William Ruto, both face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of unleashing death squads after the 2007 election. Both men deny the charges and have said they will go to the court to clear their names.
Some businesses remained closed out of fear of riots, which pushed up food prices in some places.
"Life is becoming difficult and unbearable here," said Milka Achieng, 42, a mother of five.
The Kenyan shilling weakened 1 percent against the dollar on concerns that delays in announcing a winner would prompt rivals to challenge the election outcome.
Ruto's Jubilee coalition accused British High Commissioner Christian Turner of seeking to meddle in the vote. Turner said the accusations were "entirely false and misleading".
Odinga's camp has also questioned parts of the election process before, during and after the vote, hinting at the potential for legal challenges.
As in past elections in Kenya, much of the voting has been on ethnic lines, with Kenyatta enjoying strong support among his Kikuyu tribe, Kenya's largest, and Odinga backed by the Luo. Both candidates lead broader coalitions and are also relying on support from the tribes of their running mates.
(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri and Yara Bayoumy in Nairobi, Drazen Jorgic in Mombasa and Hezron Ochiel in Kisumu; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Giles Elgood)