April 28, 2017 / 2:54 PM / 4 months ago

Rigging, chaos mar Kenyan party primary votes - observers

Electorates queue to cast their ballots, during the Jubilee Party primary elections, at a polling centre in Nairobi, Kenya April 26, 2017.Thomas Mukoya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ballot-stuffing, multiple voting and violence marred polls to pick candidates in Kenya's looming national elections, observers and participants said on Friday, raising fears of further turmoil.

Observers found some polling stations using photocopied ballot papers and found fraud in more than half of the constituencies they visited, said Mulle Musau, national coordinator of the Election Observation Group.

Protesters have taken to the streets in several locations in Kenya over the past month, frustrated by disorganisation and fraud at the primary votes - highly charged events as ethnic voting blocs mean that clinching a party nomination virtually guarantees victory in the final election.

"We have seen a number of cases of ballot-stuffing. We have seen a number of cases of multiple voting," Musau said. Angry voters stormed cyber-cafes after hearing rumours that fraudsters were using the facilities to print off ballot papers.

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta is once again standing against his arch-rival Raila Odinga in August's presidential vote, which will run alongside elections for members of parliament and local officials.

This month's protests have stirred memories of the disputed presidential poll a decade ago, when ethnically-charged violence killed more than 1,200 people.

Musau said his coalition of Kenyan civil society groups, the largest body observing the vote, visited 95 constituencies out of 290.

Electorates stand on campaign posters as they queue to cast their ballots during, the Jubilee Party primary elections, outside a polling centre in Nairobi, Kenya April 26, 2017.Thomas Mukoya

Polling stations often lacked party registers and allowed anyone with a national ID card to vote, he said. There were no provisions to prevent multiple voting.

Reuters journalists who visited 29 polling stations in four counties during primaries for both parties observed that in many polling stations, ink used to mark voters' fingers to prevent repeat voting were easily rubbed off. One journalist observed people casting multiple votes.

The main parties were forced to rerun primaries in several locations after protests.

"They have stolen from us and we are rejecting the results," said Hazel Katana, a senatorial candidate for the Jubilee party in the coastal town of Mombasa.

Hamisi Mwaguya, a Mombasa senatorial candidate for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, said his strongholds had insufficient ballot papers.

"Somebody is trying to rob us of our victory," he said. "We shall not accept this."

The rescheduled primaries should conclude on Sunday. Results for the 47 coveted governorship races show that incumbents retained their seat in 32 of them, despite widespread corruption allegations. Seven have been ousted and eight are disputed or being rerun.

Some disputes spilled into farce: a female bishop vying for the Nairobi governorship was arrested for destroying ballot papers, and two competing candidates for the Kisumu governorship were declared winners in separate locations before results were even counted.

Additional reporting by John Ndiso and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi, Athony Gitonga in Naivasha and Joseph Akwiri in Mombassa; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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