SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Horacio Cartes of the Colorado Party has been declared the winner of Paraguay's presidential elections by the South American country's electoral board.
Efrain Alegre, 50, a lawyer and career politician in the ruling Liberal Party, conceded defeat after several exit polls predicted a big win for his rival, 56-year-old Cartes, a millionaire businessman, in Sunday's election.
The country's electoral tribunal said citing results from 35 percent of polling stations that Cartes - with 46.1 percent of votes - was winning the election by more than nine percentage points over Alegre, with 36.9 percent.
Pollster Ati Snead's survey indicated that Cartes had won the election by capturing 44.4 percent of votes, with Alegre bagging 37.9 percent.
An exit poll by First Analisis y Estudios showed Cartes winning with 50.8 percent of votes versus 37 percent for Alegre.
A third exit poll showed Cartes with a nearly 21 percentage point lead over Alegre at 53.5 percent of votes, according to the Institute for Communication and Art.
Paraguay's 3.5 million voters also cast ballots on Sunday for the country's legislature and 17 governors.
Cartes is a political novice who never even voted before joining the Colorado Party four years ago.
He has pledged to reform his party, which was tainted by corruption during its 60-year reign through 2008.
Alegre's Liberal Party took over the presidency after withdrawing support for President Fernando Lugo and clearing the way for his impeachment in June.
The leftist coalition that swept him to power has since split, although Lugo was again on the ballot - this time as a Senate candidate.
Congress removed Lugo, a leftist and former Roman Catholic bishop, after finding him guilty of mishandling a botched land eviction in which 17 police officers and peasant farmers were killed.
Some of Paraguay's neighbours compared the two-day trial to a coup and imposed diplomatic sanctions on the South American nation.
Lugo's administration was also rocked by a sex scandal, after he was forced to admit to having fathered two children out of wedlock while he was still a priest, and he faces at least two other as-yet unresolved paternity suits.
Paraguay's current president, Federico Franco, is barred by the constitution from running for re-election even though he is just serving out what remained of Lugo's five-year term. He will hand over the presidency in August.
One of Paraguay's wealthiest men, Cartes primarily made his fortune in the financial and tobacco industries.
Rivals have tried to link him to drug running and money laundering, but he has never been charged with those crimes.
"The accusations made during this campaign have no truth to them, and personally I am very serene," Cartes said early on Sunday.
Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Asuncion on Sunday, said many voters told her they were disillusioned by Lugo and wanted the Colorado Party to return to power.
"I talked to many people here who wanted change and since they were disillusioned by Lugo, they said change meant going back to the very conservative Colorado Party," she said.
While Alegre has led corruption investigations in Congress, his reputation as an honest administrator was undermined by an investigation into whether he misappropriated state funds while serving as Lugo's public works minister.
"My leadership model is different from the traditional one. My project represents a 'decent Paraguay' versus the 'Paraguay of the mafias'," Alegre told Reuters news agency in a recent interview.
Polls were open from 7am to 4pm (1100 to 2000 GMT) and international observers said they had received no fraud complaints by midday.
There is no second round of balloting so the presidential candidate who captures the most votes wins. Voters also elected local authorities and members of Congress.
Once Cartes' victory is confirmed, Paraguay will have a right-leaning government, defying the trend in South America where leftists have made steady gains in recent years.
Only Colombia and Chile are ruled by conservatives.
Nearly 40 percent of Paraguay's 6.6 million people are poor. The landlocked country relies on soya-bean and beef exports, but it is also notorious for contraband trade and illicit financing.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro has narrowly won Venezuela's presidential election with 50.8 percent of votes, the electoral authority has said, allowing him to carry forward the policies of the late Hugo Chavez.
Maduro's challenger, Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, took 49.1 percent of the ballots, the authority said on Sunday, in a tighter-than-expected vote.
After a brief and bitter campaign, Venezuelans were forced to wait anxiously for results into Sunday night with counting reportedly too close to call and both sides expressing confidence of victory .
Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Caracas, said the situation was "extremely tense" and described the hard-fought election as a "nail-biter".
Capriles said there were attempts to let people vote after polling stations closed.
Earlier, he accused the government of pressuring civil servants to vote for Maduro.
Maduro inherited Chavez's formidable electoral machinery, which helped the late leader win successive elections in 14 years, with government employees often seen handing campaign pamphlets and attending rallies in groups.
Both candidates had pledged during the campaign to recognise the vote results.
Capriles hopes discontent over the nation's soaring murder rate, chronic food shortages, high inflation and regular power outages would give him an upset victory.
Capriles voted in an upper-class neighbourhood, kissing a statue of the Virgin Mary after voting and urging Venezuelans to report any election abuses.
"What we want is for this country to have a true democracy, a democracy for all, a country where we can all exercise our rights without the possibility of any reprisal," the 40-year-old state governor said.
Maduro was widely expected to win the right to complete the new six-year term Chavez won in October, promising to continue oil-funded policies that cut poverty from 50 to 29 percent with popular health, education and food programs.
Chavez named Maduro, a former bus driver and union activist who rose to foreign minister and vice president, as his political heir in December before undergoing a final round of cancer surgery.
Chavez died on March 5 aged 58.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Interim president Nicolas Maduro and opposition challenger Henrique Capriles made their final speeches to voters as official campaigning closed ahead of Venezuela’s election.
Hundreds of thousands rallied in Caracas, the capital, to support Maduro, on Thursday. Some wore the trademark red shirts of the Socialist Party and fake moustaches in the bushy style of their candidate.
Capriles’ supporters mobilised in the city of Acarigua, where their nominee promised major changes in the country that is believed to hold the world’s largest oil reserves.
“I am here to seal a commitment to the humble people because they hear that Venezuela has a lot of oil and resources which don’t reach those who need them,” Capriles told supporters.
Economy and security
Sunday’s election will be the first without Hugo Chavez in 14 years. The populist ex-president and former army officer died of cancer last month, and analysts believe the interim leader is attempting to capitalise on his legacy.
Diego Maradona, a football star from Argentina and Adan Chavez, brother of the late president and governor of Barinas state, joined Maduro on the stage as the former bus driver addressed supporters.
“Maduro is not Chavez, but he is the one who should continue Chavez’s revolution,” Lionel Lopez, a marketing manager and government supporter, told Al Jazeera. "The two things Maduro should focus on are the economy and the lack of security."
Venezuela is facing one of the highest inflation rates in the western hemisphere. The country recorded an estimated 16,000 murders last year.
Most polls say Maduro, 50, is leading by more the ten percentage points, although Capriles, 40, is said to have narrowed the gap in recent days.
The rhetoric has been heated and personal during the month-long campaign, and voters must decide between two distinct visions for how the country should be governed.
Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, dubbed Maduro a "bull-chicken" and accused his opponent of lying to the people during Chavez’s health crisis.
Maduro, a former foreign minister, has called Capriles "little bourgeois" and alleged that his unmarried opponent is a homosexual.
To counter critiques that he will undue Chavez’s popular social programmes, Capriles promised new "economic measures to strengthen the income of the poorest sections of the population".
But government supporters do not believe the opposition can build an equitable society.
"Social inclusion has increased a lot in the last 14 years," Dalia Guia, a pensioner and government supporter told Al Jazeera.
"There have been major investments in education, sports and healthcare because the benefits of the oil industry are now being shared with the people."
Inequality and extreme poverty decreased significantly during the Chavez era.
‘Candidate of imperialism’
The last day of the campaign came on the 11th anniversary of the 2002 coup against Chavez.
Maduro has sought to link the opposition to the coup, which was led by business leaders with the help of rebellious military officers.
The putsch lasted 47 hours, with loyal soldiers returning Chavez to power amid popular protests that left 19 people dead.
Capriles, who was a mayor at the time, has denied having any ties to the attempted coup.
Andres Izarra, a member of Chavez's command, told Al Jazeera that his party was facing "the candidate of imperialism and the United States and all of its powers".
More than 15 million Venezuelans are eligible to cast ballots on Sunday. The end of campaigning means political advertisements need to be withdrawn from the news media and alcohol sales are prohibited.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Florence mayor Matteo Renzi launched a clear challenge to Italian center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Thursday, saying he must either agree a coalition with former premier Silvio Berlusconi or demand a new election.
Bersani won a majority in the lower house but not the Senate in February's elections, leaving the center-left unable to govern alone. Last week he failed to forge a viable majority in parliament when his overtures to the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement were rebuffed.
Renzi, 38, who lost to Bersani last December in a vote to be the center-left's leading candidate, gave interviews to several Italian newspapers saying he was ready to stand in a new primary.
Renzi had previously hesitated to challenge Bersani, a former communist politician who blew a 10-point opinion poll lead to leave Italy in political deadlock.
But in recent days he has become increasingly critical of Bersani's line that a "grand coalition" with scandal-plagued center-right leader Berlusconi is unthinkable.
Another option could be a technocrat government sponsored by President Giorgio Napolitano, but this is opposed by both center-left and center-right.
"We cannot stop here, waiting for Bersani to get support," Renzi told the daily La Repubblica. "It's ridiculous to stick with a frozen task. We must do something: a government formed by the president, a grand coalition, or we must return to vote."
Bersani shrugged off requests for comment.
ELECTION LAW PROBLEMATIC
The Florence mayor, who had been widely expected to make his move after Bersani failed to secure a working majority, rejected suggestions that party primaries could not be organised by June.
Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party (PDL) has repeatedly called for Bersani to join them in a coalition or go back to the ballot box in June, although analysts say the chance is diminishing that an election can be held by then.
A new election held under the current law would run a high risk of producing another deadlock, but there is thought to be no prospect of changing it before June.
The law gives a big bonus in the lower chamber to the winning party, meaning that the center-left can control the chamber despite its wafer-thin winning margin. But the law also requires a new government to win a confidence vote in the Senate, where seats are allocated regionally.
A new vote would very likely produce another winner in the lower house who lacks a majority in the Senate.
Bersani says a snap election would be a disaster when Italy needs a solid government to tackle a deep recession. Meanwhile support for Berlusconi has been growing steadily in recent surveys, which show the center-right overtaking the center left.
Renzi, whose market-friendly views are seen as appealing to center-right voters, said he could pose the most credible challenge to Berlusconi, who is awaiting verdicts in two trials, one on charges that he paid for sex with a minor.
"WE CAN CHALLENGE BERLUSCONI"
"Berlusconi wants a vote in June precisely in order not to give me space. We can challenge him. If I run, he will be in trouble," Renzi told La Repubblica.
There was no immediate official reaction from the leadership of Bersani's Democratic Party (PD), which fears any alliance with Berlusconi would split the center-left.
But leadership member Davide Zoggia said Renzi was free to join Berlusconi if he wished.
"The choice between a coalition with the PDL or an immediate vote is the same proposal pursued obsessively by Berlusconi from the first day. If Renzi wants to govern with Berlusconi, he can go ahead," Zoggia said in a statement.
Renzi is opposed by the left wing of Bersani's group, including powerful trade unions. But the Florence mayor, a more dynamic campaigner than Bersani, is seen as a potential game-changer who could win back votes from the 5-star Movement of former comic Beppe Grillo, as well as the center-right.
His primary campaign last year promised to get rid of the political old guard, a battle cry that chimes with the demands of many supporters of the 5-Star Movement.
He has already dismissed as a waste of time Napolitano's decision to appoint two committees of "wise men" to draw up a plan of reforms that could win the support of all parties. It is due to report at the end of next week.
Little progress in ending the crisis is expected until a vote starting on April 18 to elect a successor to Napolitano, whose mandate runs out in May. He is not allowed to call a parliamentary election in the final months of his presidency.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called for a leadership ballot as her party faces the growing prospect of a sound election defeat later this year.
She said the ballot of a leader and deputy leader of the Labor Party would be held in the afternoon, hours after a senior minister called on her to hold a vote.
Minister Simon Crean said he would nominate as the deputy and wanted former prime minister Kevin Rudd to stand as the candidate for the top post.
Pressure on Gillard came as after rivals called for a ballot to resolve months of slipping polls and internal tensions that put her minority Labor government on course to be swept away at September elections.
"This is not personal. It's about the party, the future of the country," said senior Labor minister Crean, calling the challenge to break a deadlock between Gillard and chief rival Rudd, who she deposed in 2010.
If the ruling Labor Party replaces Gillard, that could prompt an early election as a new leader would not have guaranteed support of key independents in Australia's hung parliament.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Cyprus' parliament is to hold an extraordinary session to decide whether savers must pay a levy on bank deposits under terms for an international bailout to avoid bankruptcy - amid anger among bank savers who would be hard hit by the plans.
Ministers are in a race to thrash out draft legislation ratifying the bailout and push it through parliament before banks reopen on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend, including a pre-Easter carnival Sunday marred by the news.
It would be the first eurozone bailout in which private depositors would be forced to help foot the bill.
The debt rescue package, agreed with the eurozone and International Monetary Fund early on Saturday after around 10 hours of talks in Brussels, is significantly less than the 17bn euros Cyprus had initially sought.
The eurozone demanded on Saturday that savers should pay up to 10 percent of deposits as a condition for the 10bn euro ($13bn) bailout, drawing fury in the eastern Mediterranean island.
Cypriots emptied cashpoints after news emerged of bailout terms which broke previous eurozone taboo on protecting depositors in its efforts to address the regional debt crisis.
The tax on deposits in Cyprus, which accounts for only 0.2 percent of the eurozone's economy, is expected to raise up to 6bn euros as a condition for the bailout, mainly needed to recapitalise banks.
Those affected will include rich Russians with deposits in Cyprus and Europeans who have retired to the island as well as the Cypriots themselves.
The size of foreign deposits in Cyprus - estimated at 37 percent of the total - was one reason the eurozone agreed to the tax on savings, to take effect on Tuesday. Cyprus stopped electronic transfers over the weekend.
'Betrayed the people'
Newly elected Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said refusing the bailout would have led to the collapse of the island's two largest banks, badly singed by their exposure to bailed-out neighbour Greece.
Faced with protest calls, the president said he would address the nation on Sunday to defend the controversial deal which he admitted was "painful" but insisted was the only way to save the banking sector from total collapse.
He said thousands of small businesses would also have gone bankrupt because of cash flow problems without the deal and the unprecedented bank levy attached for an EU bailout.
Opposition leader George Lillikas has called on his supporters to protest on Tuesday, charging that the president who was elected only last month had "betrayed the people's vote".
Even the conservative leader's partners in the ruling coalition had strong words against the deal.
"During our meeting it was stressed that the decision was... almost annihilating the Cypriot economy," said Marios Garoyian, after chairing a meeting of his centrist DIKO party.
"Various EU actors... essentially blackmailed Cyprus with a vengeance and showed ulterior motives," Garoyian said, adding he had spoken to Anastasiades about seeking "alternative choices".
The Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest lender, said it was "absolutely understandable and justified for public opinion to be concerned".-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A cigarette vendor suffered severe burns Tuesday after immolating himself in an act of desperation on a Tunis street hours before lawmakers were to vote on a new government to pull Tunisia out of its political crisis.
Officials identified the man as 27-year-old Adel Khadri and said he hails from an extremely poor family in Jendouba in northwestern Tunisia. He arrived in the capital a few months ago to look for work.
"This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment," witnesses quoted Khadri shouting before he set himself on fire on the steps of the municipal theater on Habib Bourguiba avenue – epicenter of the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Passers-by rushed to douse the flames but not before Khadri had suffered serious burn wounds. He was still conscious when he was rushed to the Ben Arous hospital by emergency services.
Officials said Khadri, who eked out a living peddling cigarettes in the streets of Tunis, was a “broken” man.
"His life is not in danger but he has third-degree burns to the head and the back," emergency services spokesman Mongi Khadhi said. "He was demoralized. His father died four years ago. He has three brothers and the family is very poor."
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouche too attributed Khadri's desperate action to poverty.
"He is unemployed and came to Tunis a few months ago. He was very fragile, psychologically broken, and that is why he set himself on fire."
The number of people committing suicide or attempting to take their own lives has multiplied in Tunisia since a young street vendor set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment.
Mohamed Bouazizi's death in the town of Sidi Bouzid ignited a mass uprising that toppled Ben Ali the following month.
Economic and social difficulties were the key factors that brought down Ben Ali's regime. Two years since he fled from Tunisia, unemployment and poverty continue to plague the north African country.
The economy was badly affected by the revolution, which paralyzed the strategic tourism sector, although the country is out of recession and posted 3.6 percent growth in 2012.
Unemployment remains high at about 17 percent, especially among young graduates.
In addition to economic hardships, Tunisia is grappling with a political crisis that has been exacerbated by the daylight murder on February 6 of Chokri Belaid, a leftist opposition leader.
More than two years after the mass protests that toppled Ben Ali, the country is still without a fixed political system due to a lack of consensus between the main parties.
The ruling Islamist al-Nahda party is pushing for a pure parliamentary system while others are demanding that the president retain key powers.
Parliament was to meet later Tuesday to debate a new cabinet line-up headed by premier-designate Ali Larayedh of al-Nahda. Officials said a vote could be delayed until Wednesday.
The new cabinet was formed as part of efforts to resolve the political impasse, which last month brought down the government of Hamadi Jebali.
Although Larayedh ceded many key ministries to independents, some of the most controversial ministers from the previous cabinet have been retained, and the government lineup remains majoritarily filled with al-Nahda figures.
The MPs are also to vote on a timetable for the adoption of a new constitution and the staging of legislative elections.
Opposition MPs have rejected as "unrealistic" plans to hold a July vote on the constitution and to stage new elections in October.
Assembly speaker Mustafa Ben Jaafar has called for an end to the tug-of-war, with the political uncertainty in Tunisia also exacerbated by the growing influence of militant Islamist groups.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Cardinals have held Mass in advance of the secret papal election with no clear frontrunner after Benedict XVI's historic resignation.
The 115 cardinal electors who pick the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics attended the Mass "For the Election of the Roman Pontiff" in St Peter's Basilica on Tuesday morning.
The scandal over decades of sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests - and the efforts made by senior prelates to cover up the crimes - has cast a long shadow over the Catholic Church.
The cardinals were due to begin their secret deliberations in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon.
They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate but are expected to vote only once on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Vatican City on Tuesday, said a Vatican spokesman had confirmed the cardinals were unlikely to elect a pope by Tuesday night.
Benedict's resignation and the scandals make the choice hard to predict, she said.
"I think there's an agreement across the board that there's a huge PR problem for the Vatican, whether because of the sexual scandals or the VatiLeaks scandal," our correspondent said.
Vatileaks refers to confidential papal documents published last year by an Italian journalist, allegging high intrigue at the heart of the Catholic Church.
Al Jazeera's Abdel-Hamid said that, particularly in Europe, there was a perception that the church needed to be more flexible with changes in the modern world.
She said there was no clear frontrunner but about a dozen names had emerged as likely candidates to be the next pope.
Al Jazeera's Barbara Serra, reporting from St Peter's Square in Rome on Tuesday, said Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan was the bookmakers' favourite.
"He is seen as a safe pair of hands," she said.
But she said the fact that he is Italian would count against him as there was a large push within the church to elect a non-European as pope.
Possible candidates from the developing world include Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.
He would be experienced in leading African catholics, but he has little experience of working within the Vatican administration.
Al Jazeera's Serra said possible "compromise candidates" included the Argentina-born Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, who has Italian parents, and Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil who is of German descent.
Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel have blocked all communications and the Vatican has also been checked for any bugging devices.
The Vatican has said anyone caught contacting anyone outside the conclave will be excommunicated.
Cardinals including, South Africa's Wilfrid Napier, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say goodbye to their online flock before they were cut off from the outside world.
"Last tweet before conclave," Napier told his thousands of followers.
"May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!"
Before moving to the Vatican residence with the cardinal electors, US Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote: "Last tweet before moving to Casa Santa Martha, and mass to elect a pope.
"First conclave meeting late Tuesday afternoon. Prayers needed."
Modernity and tradition
It was a modern sign-off before a centuries-old tradition was due to begin.
The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to the 13th century when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by the angry faithful because they were taking too long to make their decision.
That conclave still dragged on for nearly three years but the rules have been reworked since then and the longest conclave in the past century - in 1922 - lasted only five days. Benedict's election took just two days.
Benedict stunned the world on February 11, announcing that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with a fast-changing modern world shaken by vital questions for the Roman Catholic Church.
In a series of emotional farewells, 85-year-old Benedict said he would live "hidden from the world" and wanted only to be "a simple pilgrim" on life's last journey.
Vatican experts have said the German's decision, which makes him only the second pope to resign by choice in the Church's 2,000-year history, could mean future popes will also step down once their strengths begin to fail them.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Polling station chiefs have been flown to Kenya's capital to speed up the announcement of the country's election results, but analysts are not expecting the nation's next president to be revealed for some time yet.
With fears of technical problems affecting the systems of the IEBC, Kenya's central elections commission, the shift to a manual count also aims to ward off further allegations of electoral irregularities.
Ahmed Issack Hassan, IEBC chief, has since revealed that results may not be available until Friday - or even Monday - a far cry from the 48 hours they had confidently predicted before votes were cast.
Though voting day passed off largely peacefully - albeit marred by isolated incidents, including the killings of more than a dozen people in Mombasa - electoral observers have said that violations of electoral procedure were noted across the country.
Kenya's Election Observers Group (ELOG) said that in 15.2 percent of polling places, people who were not registered on the electoral roll were nonetheless allowed to vote, and in 17.6 percent, voter secrecy was violated.
Ballot-box issues reported
Uchaguzi, a citizen monitoring group has also said that widespread ballot-box issues have been reported, with some citizens protesting what they perceive to be "foreign votes" introduced into the ballot boxes.
What has been causing most contention among campaign staff and observers has been the huge number of spoiled votes. More than 330,000 ballot papers - nearly six percent of all those so far counted - have been rejected.
"Most of the rejected ballots I encountered were spoiled because voters put a tick in the box next to the candidate of their choice, and then put crosses in all the other candidates' boxes, [invalidating the papers]" Joseph Khanda, presiding officer at a polling station in the Nairobi suburb of Westlands, told Al Jazeera.
"Other voters put no mark at all on voting papers. A lot of people seemed to only want to vote in the presidential and member of national assembly ballots, and not to vote in the other polls."
But should the rejected ballots be counted?
Bob Mkangu, a lawyer and member of the committee that drafted Kenya's constitution, says yes.
"The Kenyan constitution states that, under article 138 subarticle four, that, in considering the proportion, in percentage, of how much each candidate gets in a presidential election, we have to consider that through examining all the votes that have been cast for that presidential election," he told Al Jazeera.
"Meaning that, in calculating that percentage, you calculate regarding all the votes, whether rejected or valid.
"To give an example, in a polling station, if a box is opened, what is counted is all the votes for each candidate - and the rejected votes are also considered. But in doing the percentage for how much each and every candidate has gotten, all those votes, including the rejected ones, are considered. And the philosophy behind that is the fact that each and every Kenyan who went to cast a vote and had an opinion about who he or she wanted to be president - that entire totality - should be considered… Both the valid and invalid votes should appear [in the final tally].
"The message to Kenyans from diverse voices is to remain calm and patient, considering also that the constitution does gives the electoral management body up to seven days to declare the final declaration."
On this point, Kenyan law seems clear, with a clause in the country's new constitution stating "votes cast" count towards the total, rather than "validated votes".
Chapter seven, paragraph 86 of the Kenyan constitution states:
Including the spoiled votes in the total number of votes cast lowers the proportion of the total vote that can be attributed to each candidate. With Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition taking an early lead in the count, the inclusion of spoiled votes brings his total back down closer to the 50 percent mark - and brings the country closer to a run-off vote between the two frontrunners in a month's time.
Kenyatta's running mate, William Ruto, has claimed that UK High Commissioner to Kenya Dr Christian Turner - an accredited election observer - was behind the IEBC's decision to include the spoiled votes in the statistics.
"Further, we at the Jubilee Coalition are alarmed by the abnormally high influx of British military personnel in the country which began around the voting day, under the pretext of training," said Jubilee spokesperson Charity Ngilu.
The troops are on a routine exercise planned nine months ago, said British officials.
“Claims of British interference, including by the High Commission, in the electoral process are entirely false and misleading," read a statement from the UK foreign office.
"The UK does not have a position on the question of how to handle the rejected votes. That is for the IEBC, and, if necessary, Kenyan courts, to determine."
Odinga's ODM party have also said that the votes counted so far have been collated from Jubilee strongholds, and that Odinga heartlands have yet to be tallied. ODM officials have been collating their own tallies from election centres around the country, and maintain they are leading the vote count, despite the figures so far released by the IEBC.
Odinga "knows he is winning", a top campaign aide said late on Tuesday night.
The IEBC said that the vote continued through the night, despite few updates being published.
"The electronic transmission system was slow, but the vote count did not stop," said the IEBC's Tabitha Muthemi.
Muthemi also denied that their software had been tampered with.
"That is a rumour," she said. "We think we have not been hacked."
European Union observers said the elections had been characterised by a push for peace, transparency and credibility.
"Great patience is now required," EU Chief Observer Alojz Peterle told reporters.
"Quite many factors cause rejected votes," said Peterle, a former prime minister of Slovenia. "It is up to election authorities to be clear with that. We need clarity, because this is an important element of the story."
Peterle denied that the EU mission had urged the IEBC to include the spoiled papers in the overall count.
"We are observers, not agents," he said. "We are here as partners. Our mission is clear; we don't have a political mission here."
Money well spent?
Since 2010, the US State Department has awarded $35m to the Kenyan government for voter education campaigns.
The EU has invested $5.6m in the electoral process, as part of a $25m package to boost governance and civil society programs in Kenya.
"The civic education programmes did not work as well as we'd hoped," polling station chief Joseph Khanda admitted on polling day.
With so many votes cast erroneously, how was this money spent?
The IEBC held a series of public workshops in each county across Kenya during the month of February, covering a range of topics from "making wise electoral choices" to "post-election peace and cohesion", as well as explaining how the biometric voter recognition machines worked.
The elections body also held a competition to design posters highlighting peaceful electioneering as well as women's and youth participation.
A State Department official told Al Jazeera they would not comment on whether the US considered this to be money well spent.
Through all the murkiness and tangled webs of politically motivated allegations and counter-allegations, what remains clear is that Kenya's voters will have to wait for some time to come before who has won this election becomes clear.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Election-related tensions rose steadily on Thursday after the party ofRaila Odinga, the prime minister, who has been trailing in the polls, said that preliminary election results had been “doctored” and the counting process needs to be stopped.
Millions of Kenyans flocked to the polls on Monday in an anxiously awaited presidential election and a winner was supposed have been announced by now but a breakdown in computer equipment has spawned long delays and mushrooming anxieties.
“We have evidence that the results we are receiving have been doctored,” said Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr. Odinga’s running mate. “The national tallying process lacks integrity and has to be stopped.”
The election commission did not comment immediately and Mr. Odinga’s campaign officials said they were considering seeking a court injunction to immediately halt the tallying process. His campaign also said that it wanted to start the tallying process again from the beginning, with observers watching every step.
Partial results, with about half the votes counted, show Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and a divisive politician who has been charged with crimes against humanity, leading Mr. Odinga by 53 to 41 percent. That margin has remained about the same since the first results began to trickle in. This is Kenya’s first presidential election since 2007, when widespread evidence of vote-rigging set off ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,000 people.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court accuse Mr. Kenyatta, along with his running mate, William Ruto, of organizing some of the violence. Kenya has undertaken many major reforms since then, including passing a new constitution and overhauling its election process.
In this election, votes were supposed to be transmitted directly from tallying centers to election headquarters in Nairobi, the capital, via encrypted data messages over a mobile phone network. But the computer servers at the election headquarters crashed on Tuesday and now election officials are tabulating results manually, based on signed sheets of paper from centers around the country.
Helicopters and planes have been dispatched to pick up election officials from all corners of Kenya, from the Indian Ocean coastline to the arid deserts of the north. In the past 36 hours, election officials have trudged into the election center in Nairobi carrying locked black briefcases with the election results.
Mr. Musyoka cited a list of complaints, saying that the biometric computer equipment used to verify voters’ identities had failed in most parts of the country and that some areas were reporting results that exceeded 100 percent of voter registration.
“Total collapse” is what he called it and he warned that after the violence of the last election, “Kenyans can’t take another problem of this sort.” But he urged supporters not to take “mass action” and instead to wait for a peaceful resolution of the election dispute.