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There are still no official results in Kenya's presidential election

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Three days after its presidential elections, Kenya is still waiting on official results. But in this election, something new is happening, something electoral experts are calling a win for transparency. It's causing confusion, though. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The day is so cold here in Nairobi that people in the Kibera neighborhood set tires on fire to keep warm. Everyone is listening to a radio or looking at their cellphones, trying to decipher what is going on with their presidential elections. All the major news networks are doing their own counts and showing different results. Some have Deputy President William Ruto leading, others former opposition leader Raila Odinga. James Odero says he's confused.

JAMES ODERO: All of them should read one result, but they are giving different results. You see? That's why right now, we don't believe.

PERALTA: Just a few hours after voting was over, the electoral commission published the results from almost all of the roughly 46,000 polling stations. For the first time ever, all of the forms are available online, and news organizations are adding up those forms. Odero's friend Kevin Owino tells him that different results are actually exactly how this is supposed to work.

KEVIN OWINO: Since they are different companies being done with different people - they start from different times. So you should not expect one result from different people before they finish.

PERALTA: After Owino's explanation, everyone nods. They agree that what matters is that in the end, everyone should come up with the same answer. That pragmatism is something new in a neighborhood known for its violent protests of presidential election results. I asked them, what if the math of their candidate differs from the math of the news stations and the electoral board?

SAMUEL OGUTA: We'll try to ask my presidential candidate to give us a reason why he disputes the result.

PERALTA: So you would want to see the math?

OGUTA: Yes, show me the math.

PERALTA: This time, says Samuel Oguta, they'll take to the streets only if they're convinced the numbers are cooked.

RICHARD KLEIN: I think everyone is very surprised at how well it worked.

PERALTA: That is Richard Klein, director of elections programs at the National Democratic Institute, who's in Kenya monitoring elections. He says in the '90s, elections across the world became more transparent when officials began posting results outside polling stations. Kenya did that in 2017, but there were allegations that the results were manipulated as those forms made their way to Nairobi. The dispute led to a brand-new election, but it also led to widespread violence that left dozens dead. Now political parties and Kenyans have all the raw data to double-check the results that come out of the electoral commission.

KLEIN: It is absolutely a step forward. It is a tremendous improvement in transparency.

PERALTA: And that could help build trust in the electoral system in a country where this time around, the turnout was unusually low.

By the time we get to the tallying center for presidential candidate William Ruto, dozens of staffers start getting up from their computers.

UNIDENTIFIED STAFFER: We are done.

PERALTA: Done?

UNIDENTIFIED STAFFER: Yeah.

PERALTA: Wait. Like, you're done counting.

UNIDENTIFIED STAFFER: Yeah, yeah. That's why you're late to the party.

PERALTA: (Laughter).

Collins Kipono (ph), one of the campaign's legal strategist says they hired more than 400 people who spent two days looking at those 46,000 forms. They compared what was online with what their party agents collected, and then they added all of them up.

So you are confident you know who the winner of this election is?

COLLINS KIPONO: It's not even a matter of confidence. We do know because numbers don't lie. One plus one can never be 11.

PERALTA: Of course, in Kenya, elections have never been that simple. Indeed, by late this morning, news stations inexplicably stopped counting, making Kenyans uneasy.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMINE BOUHAFA'S "TIMBUKTU FASSO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.