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Ruto leads in Kenya vote, media tallies show, as announcement seen imminent

With most votes counted, Deputy Pres on about 52%: media Electoral Commission seen announcing winner soon Delays since Tuesday's vote have fed anxiety Adds quotes, background NAIROBI, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto led a tight presidential race against opposition leader Raila Odinga, official results reported by media showed on Monday, as an announcement from electoral authorities on the winner appeared imminent. Slow progress by the electoral commission in tallying Tuesday's vote have fed anxiety in East Africa's wealthiest country, which has a recent history of violence following disputed elections. Riot police were deployed at the national tallying centre at the weekend after scuffling between members of rival parties over verification procedures. With media on Monday reporting more than three quarters of votes counted, only two desks on a tallying floor that has been a hive of activity since the verification process started were occupied by electoral commission staff and party agents, out of more than 12 before. That suggested the count could be coming to a close. The commission has not said when the winner will be declared, but the law requires it to announce results within seven days of a presidential election. The winning candidate must get 50% of votes plus one. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has served his two-term limit, fell out with Ruto after the last election and has this time endorsed Odinga for president. In its latest announcement on Saturday of officially verified results with a little more than a quarter of votes counted, the commission put Odinga in the lead with 54% and Ruto on 45%. CHECKS AND BALANCES But in official verified results reported by the independent and privately owned Nation Media Group, with 253 constituencies counted out of a total of 291, Ruto had 51% of the vote and Odinga 48%. The Standard Group - likewise independent and privately owned - reported Ruto ahead, again with 51% of the vote against Odinga's 48% and also with 253 constituencies tallied. A Reuters tally of 266 out of 291 preliminary constituency-level results at 0900 GMT on Monday showed Ruto on 52% and Odinga at 48%. Two minor candidates shared less than a percent between them. Reuters did not include 20 forms in the count because they lacked signatures, totals, were illegible or had other problems. The preliminary tally is based on forms that are subject to revision if any discrepancies are discovered during the official verification process. The many checks and balances are designed to try to prevent the kind of allegations of rigging that provoked violence after the 2007 vote, when more than 1,200 people were killed. In 2017, after the Supreme Court overturned the result over irregularities in the electoral process, more than 100 were killed. Crispinus Kokonya in Eldoret, a region where Ruto has largest support base, said the outcome was still unclear. "So we are now waiting upon Chebukati... what he says we will follow," he said referring to the electoral commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati. Others said the wait was hurting business. "We are losing money - it's causing a lot of anxiety and anger," said Alphonce Otieno Odhiambo a farmer and a motor bike taxi driver in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri and George Obulutsa in Nairobi, Ayenat Mersie in Kisumu and Nelson Ali in Eldoret Writing by James Macharia Chege; editing by John Stonestreet) ((james.macharia@thomsonreuters.com; Tel: +27 10 346 1084; Reuters Messaging: james.macharia.thomsonreuters@reuters.net)) The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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