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Voters cast their ballots in Kenyan presidential election with low turnout

The first voters in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, look into one of the many polling rooms at Olympic Primary just minutes before voting commences on Tuesday.
Nickolai Hammar
/
NPR
The first voters in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, look into one of the many polling rooms at Olympic Primary just minutes before voting commences on Tuesday.

Kenyans headed to the polls on Tuesday in a presidential election pitting a veteran opposition leader against the sitting deputy president.

In a twist, outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who isn't running for reelection, threw his support behind his longtime rival, Raila Odinga, instead of his own deputy, William Ruto.

With Odinga and Ruto in a tight race, other contenders include George Wajackoyah, a candidate with some unorthodox proposals, who had been polling in a distant third place.

Kenya has been a bellwether for democracy in East Africa. A dictatorship gave way to elections in the early 2000s. But since then, some of the presidential contests have been marred by violence and irregularities.

On Tuesday, while some voters camped out at a polling station as early as 3 a.m., the election was marked by low turnout and a great deal of cynicism.

Preliminary results could begin to come out Tuesday night but an official announcement of the winner is expected to take longer.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto, center, greets supporters after casting his vote in Kenya's general election in Sugoi. Kenyans are voting to choose between opposition leader Raila Odinga and Ruto to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta after a decade in power.
Brian Inganga / AP
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AP
Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto, center, greets supporters after casting his vote in Kenya's general election in Sugoi. Kenyans are voting to choose between opposition leader Raila Odinga and Ruto to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta after a decade in power.
Presidential candidate Raila Odinga waves to his supporters after casting his vote at the Kibera Primary School.
Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP
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AP
Presidential candidate Raila Odinga waves to his supporters after casting his vote at the Kibera Primary School.
A large crowd runs ahead of a motorcade shuttling presidential candidate Raila Odinga, after he cast his votes in the Kibera slum in Nairobi.
Nickolai Hammar / NPR
/
NPR
A large crowd runs ahead of a motorcade shuttling presidential candidate Raila Odinga, after he cast his votes in the Kibera slum in Nairobi.
Anne Wangiru, 43, a shopkeeper, cast her vote during the Kenyan general elections at the Ilbillis Primary School in Kajiado.
Marco Longari / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Anne Wangiru, 43, a shopkeeper, cast her vote during the Kenyan general elections at the Ilbillis Primary School in Kajiado.
An election official marks the nail of a voter to indicate they have cast their ballots and completed voting at a polling station in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi.
Nickolai Hammar / NPR
/
NPR
An election official marks the nail of a voter to indicate they have cast their ballots and completed voting at a polling station in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi.
Voters cast their ballots in a polling center in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi. Despite excitement around the city, voter turnout was unexpectedly low.
Nickolai Hammar / NPR
/
NPR
Voters cast their ballots in a polling center in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi. Despite excitement around the city, voter turnout was unexpectedly low.
Sam Papa, 27, didn't leave his coal store in Mathare all day. He says every election period, politicians drop off money and promises. But after elections, nothing changes. At the moment, he says, his neighbors can't afford the basics. They vote, he says, because the constitution demands it. But, in the end, he knows that Kenyans are on their own.
Nickolai Hammar / NPR
/
NPR
Sam Papa, 27, didn't leave his coal store in Mathare all day. He says every election period, politicians drop off money and promises. But after elections, nothing changes. At the moment, he says, his neighbors can't afford the basics. They vote, he says, because the constitution demands it. But, in the end, he knows that Kenyans are on their own.
After a calm day of voting, life returns to normal in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi.
Nickolai Hammar / NPR
/
NPR
After a calm day of voting, life returns to normal in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials count votes at the Mathare North Social Hall polling station during the presidential election in Nairobi.
Michele Spatari / Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials count votes at the Mathare North Social Hall polling station during the presidential election in Nairobi.
Electoral Commission Officials count votes inside a polling station after the official closing of the polls during Kenya's general election at Mathare Social Hall in Nairobi.
Luis Tato / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Electoral Commission Officials count votes inside a polling station after the official closing of the polls during Kenya's general election at Mathare Social Hall in Nairobi.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.