Kenyans have cast their votes in a hotly-contested race for a new leader that is too close to call.

Many polling stations in the city of Eldoret, a stronghold of presidential candidate and incumbent Deputy President William Ruto, closed ballot boxes at 5pm local time (10aET) as no voters were still in line to cast their ballots.

Immediately after polling, the voting machines are first counted at the polling stations, then sent to the constituency-wide tallying center, which tracks the results from all reporting polling stations.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the election will go into a run-off for the first time in Kenyan history.

Who are the main candidates?

Tuesday’s presidential election, according to Opinion pollsIt is seen as a two-horse race between Deputy President Ruto, 55, and veteran opposition leader Odinga, 77.
Odinga is a businessman and politician who served as Kenya’s prime minister for five years after a disputed December 2007 presidential election that led to widespread protests and violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Odinga is part of a Kenyan political dynasty; His father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was the first Vice President of independent Kenya.

He earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in East Germany in 1970 and was a one-time lecturer at the University of Nairobi after his studies abroad.

He says he is contesting the polls for the fifth and final time after failing in his previous four attempts.

Odinga has the support of former rival President Kenyatta, who has overlooked his deputy Ruto for the top job.

Affectionately known as “Baba” by Kenyans, he has pledged to establish a universal healthcare program called Babacare for social protection and poor households. Free education up to college level is also part of their plans.

Political reporter and analyst Moses Odhiambo says this could be Odinga’s year.

“There is a feeling that whichever side the government leans on wins. If you borrow from opinion polls, Raila has an advantage,” Odhiambo told CNN.

Odinga’s main opponent, Ruto, describes himself as the “hustler-in-chief”, referring to his humble beginnings as a chicken seller who fought his way to one of Kenya’s highest political offices.

Ruto, a former teacher with a doctorate in plant ecology from the University of Nairobi, has adopted a “people-for-the-people” approach designed to capture Kenya’s largest voting bloc.

And he seems to be succeeding, senior political analyst Herman Manyora told CNN: “Ruto has excited the youth … almost in a euphoric sense. That will help them vote.”

Ruto has pledged to prioritize Kenya’s economy and “Elevate the Common Citizen” If elected President.

“There is a world of difference between me and my opponent. I have a plan, he doesn’t,” Ruto says of Odinga.

Ruto, along with Kenyatta, was tried at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands in 2013 for crimes against humanity following the 2007 election violence. However, the charges were later dropped.
A 'hustler-in-chief' or a seasoned 'baba' politician, who will be Kenya's next president?

Analyst Odhiambo argues that while the election may bring regime change, Ruto and Odinga’s relationship with the current government does not provide a new political phenomenon.

“Among the front runners, people are keen to strike a balance between what is perceived as continuity and freshness within continuity,” Odhiambo said.

“Ruto is the deputy president and part of the current government. There is a sense that Odinga could be an extension of the current president because of the support the president has given him.”

What are the problems?

Key pressing issues for voters are a myriad of economic problems, from growing debt to high food and fuel prices and mass youth unemployment.

Parts of the country suffer from a debilitating drought, which exacerbates growing insecurity issues.

Analyst Manyora says many Kenyans, especially young people, are disillusioned with the government and may boycott the elections.

“There are factors that affect voting. High cost of living in a country, helplessness and hopelessness among the youth, unemployment, poverty levels and disillusionment that people don’t see what politicians are doing for them,” the analyst said.

Kenya’s problems should generally motivate his countrymen to vote for the right candidates regardless of tribe, he said, but they are “not angry enough”.

“Because of these issues one would expect Kenyans to turn out in large numbers, to express their anger about the high cost of living by voting out those responsible … I don’t think Kenyans are at the point where they are. Angry enough to translate that anger into political action,” Manyora told CNN.

The role of ethnicity

The Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin and Luo are four of the most populous ethnic groups in the East African country.
Outgoing leader Kenyatta is one of four Kenyan presidents to emerge from the powerful Kikuyu ethnic group since the country gained independence in 1963.

“The problem in this country is that tribal considerations trump everything…most votes are based on tribe; very few votes come from critical voters,” analyst Manyora said.

A record number of women are running in Kenya's elections but many face harassment and abuse

Ruto belongs to the Kalenjin tribe and Odinga belongs to the Luo ethnic group.

Both criss-crossed the country before wrapping up campaigning over the weekend, seeking support from outside their strongholds.

Both candidates chose their running mates from the Kikuyu, also known as the Mount Kenya region — one of Kenya’s largest voting blocs.

Ruto is running against first-term MP Rigati Gachagua, while Odinga is on the ballot with former justice minister and one-time presidential aspirant Martha Karua.

Karua will become Kenya’s first female vice president if elected. Analyst Odhiambo says Odinga’s choice of running mate has thrilled women in Kenya.

“There is a growing wave of support around women’s leadership, which has been accelerated by Odinga’s selection of Martha as his running mate,” he said.

Women represent 49% of Kenya’s registered voters, according to the country’s Electoral Commission.

Only the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes have produced the country’s president and this is the first election in which none of the major candidates are Kikuyu.

No candidate from the Luo tribe has ever won a presidential election.

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