(Update 1: alters lead and headline, adds info)
Nairobi, Aug 9 (EFE).- The two leading candidates for Kenya’s presidency cast their ballots on Tuesday as the country’s outgoing president called for fair elections.
Deputy president William Ruto cast his ballot accompanied by his wife Rachel shortly after polling stations opened at 6am local time.
“I feel very good that after so many months of campaigning and selling our agenda, this day has come and I have this morning cast my vote,” Ruto said after voting in the western county of Uasin Gishu, calling the election “historic” that would “usher in a new era for the country”.
“It is going to be a vote that is going to change the destiny of this country. It is a vote of plans and agenda unlike before when people were people were voting for personality and tribe,” the 55-year-old said, adding that he urged “for a peaceful process.”
His main rival, former prime minister Raila Odinga, and his wife Ida voted in a huge Nairobi slum that he has represented in parliament for over two decades, considered his electoral stronghold.
Hundreds of his supporters gathered near the polling center chanting “Baba, Baba” – which means father – as Odinga, 77, is affectionately known to his followers.
“The ball is in the people’s court and I have confidence that the people of Kenya are going to speak loudly in favor of the democratic change,” the opposition leader said before casting his ballot.
The winner of the elections will succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who cannot run again after he completed two five-year terms, according to the constitution.
Kenyatta called on Kenyans to participate in the elections peacefully, saying he hoped it would be free and fair.
Only 22.1 million citizens out of a national population of around 55 million people have registered to vote, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
More than 46,200 polling stations will open until 5pm when vote counting will start. Results should be published within seven days.
Observers from various international organizations, such as the European Union and the African Union, have sent missions to the country to monitor the vote, while some 150,000 law enforcement officers have been deployed.
In addition to the president, Kenyans will elect 290 deputies and 47 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly (Lower House) and 47 parliamentarians in the Senate (Upper House).
Likewise, citizens will elect the governors and legislative assemblies of the 47 counties of the country.
Kenya is often pointed to by the international community as a stabilizing power in the troubled Horn of Africa region and a loyal partner of the West. EFE