Kenya nervously awaited Thursday the final results of its presidential election, with the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta holding a strong lead after a vote tainted by opposition claims of rigging and the death of four people.
International observer missions called for calm and restraint as the results were being finalised a day after isolated protests broke out following opposition leader Raila Odinga's rejection of the early tally.
"Elections should never be a matter of life of death," said Marietje Schaake, head of the European Union observer mission.
Kenyatta, 55, who is seeking a second term in office, appeared to have an unassailable lead with 54% to Odinga's 44.8%, according to a provisional count of Tuesday's ballot, released by the electoral commission (IEBC).
Odinga, 72, who claims elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him, charged that hackers broke into the IEBC's systems and rigged the count, an allegation that fuelled uncertainty in what was already a tight race.
"This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud," said Odinga.
IEBC chief Ezra Chiloba said the electronic voting system, seen as key to avoiding fraud, had not been compromised.
"Our election management system is secure. There was no external or internal interference to the system at any point before, during or after the voting," he told a press conference.
International observers from the African Union, Commonwealth and European Union largely praised a peaceful day of voting, while urging patience as results are finalised by the IEBC.
"They are working around the clock. It's important they have the time to do these procedures well. We continue to urge everyone to be calm, to be resilient and to be peaceful," said the EU's Schaake.
Former Ghanaian president John Mahama, who is leading the Commonwealth delegation, also urged Kenyans to give the IEBC "proper time and space to complete the results process with necessary due diligence".
"It is vital that all political leaders maintain peace and calm, exercise patience and not stampede the process," he said.
Mahama noted that the "opening, voting, closing and counting process at polling stations were credible, transparent and inclusive".
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, at the head of the African Union mission, agreed. He said the opposition's hacking complaints should be looked into by the IEBC, saying this was not the mandate of observers.
Mbeki mentioned the high number of rejected ballots, nearly 400,000 so far, saying this was a problem of lack of voter education and "inflexibility" by polling agents.
"To me it looked a bit odd", when a tick slightly inched into a neighbouring box and was rejected by polling agents, he said.
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