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Opposition threatens to quit Kenya poll

THE stability of what was once regarded as an African success story hung in the balance yesterday as early returns in Kenya's election showed President Daniel arap Moi leading his three main rivals by a wide margin.

The main opposition parties, the Democratic Party (DP) and the two factions of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford), accused the government of rigging the polls and threatened to pull out. They set a deadline of 2pm today (11am GMT) for the government to show 'demonstrable efforts to rectify and redress these frauds'. DP officials said this meant annulling the results in constituencies where they had made complaints.

The estimated 100 international observers from the US and the Commonwealth, who have sharply criticised the government's handling of the run-up to the election, said it was too early to tell if the voting process was flawed.

Mr Moi had 342,937 votes to 266,421 for his nearest rival, Kenneth Matiba of Ford-Asili, with 36 of 188 constituencies reporting, Kenya Television Network said. Oginga Odinga of Ford-Kenya had 113,343 and Mwai Kibaki of the DP, a former vice- president, had 102,075.

Security forces were deployed in Nairobi, Mombasa and other large towns to deal with outbreaks of violence which were expected to intensify once the final results were announced. Riot police in the capital fired into the air yesterday when a crowd stopped an election official who arrived at a counting station with marked and unmarked ballot papers.

One man was shot dead and three others wounded in Mombasa on Tuesday night when protesters attempting to stop a vehicle allegedly busing in voters clashed with police. Ford-Kenya supporters set fire to the offices of Mr Moi's ruling Kenyan African National Union (Kanu) in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu.

Before Tuesday's presidential and parliamentary polls, Kenya's first multi-party elections in 26 years, the opposition repeatedly complained of government manipulation and harassment. Their charges were largely supported by Western diplomats and international observers. Widespread complaints of vote-buying, intimidation and irregularities in polling stations yesterday continued to pour into the National Electoral Commission. International observers described the election process as one of the sloppiest they had seen recently in Africa.

Mr Moi, 68, competed against seven opponents in the presidential race, and the country's 10 political parties nominated 700 candidates for the 188 contested parliamentary seats. Another 12 MPs will be appointed by the president. To capture the presidency on the first round of voting a candidate must win 25 per cent of the vote in at least five of Kenya's eight provinces.

Kenya's transition to multi- party politics, which Mr Moi initiated under Western pressure, including the suspension of dollars 350m ( pounds 228m) in aid in November 1991, has always been overshadowed by the spectre of ethnic violence. An estimated 800 people died this year and 55,000 were displaced in clashes in parts of Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces.

Kanu entered the race with an important early advantage. At least 20 of its candidates ran unopposed after opposition aspirants withdrew from the race or were prevented by pro-government thugs from presenting their nomination papers.

The opposition, which eight months ago was confident of ending Mr Moi's increasingly autocratic and corrupt 14-year rule, split over ethnic rivalries and personal ambitions. Its only hope of stopping Mr Moi's re-election was a failure by the President to secure the necessary 25 per cent in five provinces. Returns from the Coast and Nyanza provinces, where Mr Moi was expected to be heavily defeated, were not encouraging for their cause.