Kenyan election officials continued to count ballots on Tuesday, with early results showing Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta holding a steady lead over his rival, incumbent premier Raila Odinga.

With more than a third of the votes counted, Kenyatta had received about 54 per cent and Odinga about 41 per cent. Six other candidates trailed by a wide margin.

Analysts cautioned that many of the wards reporting were Kenyatta strongholds, while some of Odinga’s key support bases had not yet seen their votes counted.

Both camps have complained about the slow pace of vote tallying - provisional results had been expected within 48 hours of the close of voting, while final results were expected by March 11 - but the head of the election commission called for calm.

“Your job was to contest the elections. Our job was to conduct the elections. We are impartial,” assured Isaack Hassan, chief of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, addressing politicians.

“The law allows the commission to declare the results within seven days. Yesterday we voted. Today is the first day after the elections. We’ve got six more days, that is the legal position. We hope within 48 hours we will be able to announce.”

The general and presidential elections on Monday were the first since a disputed presidential run-off vote sparked ethnic clashes in December 2007, in which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Clashes across the East African economic powerhouse of 43 million people erupted after Odinga - currently in his third bid for the presidency - claimed he was cheated by President Mwai Kibaki, who is stepping down after two terms in office.

Kenyatta and his vice-presidential running mate, William Ruto, are among four people indicted by the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles in orchestrating ethnically driven violence after the disputed Kibaki-Odinga run-off vote in 2007.

Western nations have warned Kenya against electing ICC suspects to high office.

While the ongoing election was mostly peaceful and citizens patiently waited in long queues for many hours to cast their vote, more than a dozen people were killed in violence in the coastal city of Mombasa, in attacks police blamed on a separatist movement.

There have been numerous technical and logistical errors slowing down the counting of votes. Some of the problems stemmed from the high-tech computerized system Kenya put in place before the election.

“A disk space issue on one of the servers supporting the relay of the results” caused delays, said James Oswago, a top official at the election commission. The problem has been fixed.

Elections were also taking place for parliamentary seats and local government offices. Early results already showed clear winners in some districts, with several candidates having conceded defeat.

Some 14.3 million people registered to vote. Turnout was expected to be above the 70-per-cent mark reached in 2007.

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