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Kenyans vote in presidential election amid economic crisis

Voters line up at a primary school-turned-polling station in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 9, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

People in Kenya have voted to elect their fifth president since independence, amid harsh economic conditions.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. local time on Tuesday and closed at 5 p.m., but delays in some regions of the country meant that some polling stations would have to operate on longer schedules.

More than 22 million Kenyans had registered to vote in the seventh general elections — which also included parliamentary and local polls — since multiparty democracy was established in the country of 53 million in 1992. The official voter turnout is yet to be announced.

The front-runners in the race are Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, and current Deputy President William Ruto.

Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta will hand over power to a new leader after having served the constitutionally allowed maximum of two five-year terms.

Official results will be announced within a week. The candidates need more than half of all votes, as well as more than 25 percent of the votes in over half of the country's 47 counties, to avoid a runoff. With polls showing the two candidates running neck-and-neck, experts believe the election will likely go to a runoff, which would be the first in the country's history.

Kenya, East Africa's main economic hub, faces an economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a drought that has pushed up prices of food and fuel. The country also suffers from high youth unemployment and rampant corruption.

Those tough economic realities dominated the campaigns and marginalized ethnic and personality-driven politics. For the first time in more than a decade, there was no leading candidate from the Kikuyu community, the largest ethnic group in Kenya and one that the majority of the country's former presidents belonged to.

Both Odinga and Rutto have pledged to address the country's gaping inequality gap and focus largely on domestic issues.

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