Nairobi: Kenyans headed to the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes to elect a new president and a parliament in a hotly contested election that pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the media reported.
Over 40,000 polling stations opened at 6 a.m. (local time) and will close at 5 p.m., reports Xinhua news agency.
A total of 19 million Kenyans are registered to cast their ballots.
Results are expected by Tuesday night, and by Wednesday evening, the country’s next President will be declared, although the electoral body will have seven days to officially announce the results.
Odinga, 72, who’s running for president for the fourth time, served as prime minister between 2008 and 2013.
As the candidate for the National Super Alliance party, he is one of eight presidential candidates, reports CNN.
Kenyatta, who leads the Jubilee Alliance and is seeking a second five-year term, is the nation’s youngest president at 55. If he loses, he will make history as the only incumbent Kenyan president not to win re-election.
The last election in 2007 was marred with violence with more than 1,100 deaths and 600,000 others were displaced.
In a speech ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Kenyatta urged the citizens to “please go back home” after casting their vote, reports BBC.
“Go back to your neighbour. Regardless of where he or she comes from, their tribe, their colour or their religion. Shake their hand, share a meal and tell them ‘let us wait for the results,’ for Kenya will be here long after this general election.”
Kenyatta and Odinga originate from opposing tribes.
Also on Monday, Odinga congratulated Kenyatta on his campaign, describing him as a “worthy opponent”.
“May the stronger candidate win tomorrow,” he said.
To win outright, a candidate needs 50 per cent plus one vote, and at least 25 per cent of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.
If that threshold is not met it will trigger a run-off vote between the top two candidates, with the winner requiring a simple majority.
Voters are also choosing lawmakers, senators, governors, county officials and women’s representatives. More than 14,000 candidates are standing in those elections.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s father Jomo Kenyatta, was the nation’s first President (1964-78) while Raila Odinga’s father Jaramogi Odinga, served as his Vice President (1964-66).