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Kenyans face a tense wait for the results of Tuesday's presidential election


Kenyans face a tense wait for the results of Tuesday's presidential election.


The two front-runners in this tight race are the former prime minister, Raila Odinga, and current deputy president, William Ruto.

FADEL: NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta joins us now from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Hi, Eyder.


FADEL: So you were out all day at the polls yesterday. What was the mood, and how was the turnout?

PERALTA: The numbers we have seen so far show a historically low turnout - perhaps the lowest turnout since Kenya became a real democracy. And that's what I heard yesterday - a lot of cynicism, a lot of apathy - that they come to vote every five years, and their lives - the lives of ordinary Kenyans - stay the same. In fact, right now, life is tough. There are few jobs. Inflation is through the roof. A lot of Kenyans are only eating one meal a day. I talked to one man who had just finished voting, and I asked him if he was looking for change. And he gave me a half smile, and he told me that looking for change in Kenya is like looking for gold in the ocean. And I don't know much about mining, but I checked. And getting gold from the ocean is nearly impossible.

FADEL: Wow. This is now expected to be a tightly fought race. You describe this low turnout, apathy, but tell us more about the two front-runners that people are choosing between.

PERALTA: So both of these guys have been around Kenyan politics for decades. Raila Odinga is a former prime minister. He has been the perennial opposition leader, running for president for the fifth time. And William Ruto is currently the deputy president. But over the past two years, the allegiances in Kenya have shifted dramatically. Both of these two politicians became friends with enemies and enemies with friends. It's been a soap opera, and in some ways it has lifted the veil for Kenyans. I think a lot of them started wondering if politics - for which thousands have died in this country - is just a game to their leaders, and a lot of them opted out this time around.

FADEL: Right - what you saw at the polls. When are we expecting to get the final results?

PERALTA: We already have preliminary results. They're showing a tight race, but the Constitution gives the electoral board seven days to finish their counting. But we should get results by tomorrow or maybe the next day.

FADEL: And past elections in Kenya - they've turned violent. Are there concerns that that might happen this time around?

PERALTA: I mean, that's always a concern, and the government has deployed a lot of security across the country. But I can tell you that, on the streets, I heard a lot of apathy, even about defending this election. In the past, I would talk to people, and they would tell me that if things didn't go their candidate's way, they were prepared to die. I did not hear that this time around. I heard a lot of Kenyans wanting this to be over. One analyst told me that perhaps it's a sign - and it's a good one, he says - that elections in Kenya have become routine. But violence is unpredictable. Everyone is holding their breath for now. But for now, everything is quiet.

FADEL: Election is routine, but so many people really not - it doesn't sound like they're having hope in the system at all.

PERALTA: Yeah, that's right.

FADEL: NPR's Eyder Peralta in Nairobi. Thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.