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Kibaki leading in Kenya poll

NARC supporters celebrate in Kamukunji, Kenya
NARC supporters celebrate in Kamukunji, Kenya

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenya's main opposition party leader, Mwai Kibaki, has taken a significant lead in early results in an election which marks the end of President Daniel arap Moi's rule.

Kibaki, who heads the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC), has a stormed to a 54 point lead over his closest rival Uhuru Kenyatta, presidential candidate for the ruling KANU party, unofficial results show.

Moi, who has ruled the east African country for 24 years, stands down at this election but is likely to see not only the main opposition presidential candidate replace him but also witness his KANU party being defeated for the first time since independence in 1963.

Official results are not expected until January 1, but Kenya's media reported Kibaki had a total of 76 percent of the presidential vote with Kenyatta trailing with 22 percent.

Independent Nation television said votes had been counted in seven of the eight provinces.

Full results from the eighth province, a remote region bordering Somalia, were delayed because of wet weather on Friday.

International observers said up to 60,000 voters in that province are due to vote on Saturday, although they added that these votes would not significantly alter overall results.

KANU's humiliation appears to be compounded by the defeat of two key party members. The party's vice president Musalia Mudavadi was reported by election officials to have lost his seat, as did KANU's top politician in the Indian Ocean region, Shariff Nassir.

Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, was elected in his constituency of Gatundu South. It is the first time he has stood for election.

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper ran the headline "Kibaki takes early lead" Saturday, the same headline echoed in its rival publication, the East African Standard.

A landslide victory had been predicted late Friday for Kibaki, the 71-year-old veteran of Kenyan politics who promises a government of national unity.

Sources also said the alliance of opposition parties he leads, appears to be ahead of its competitors in the race for Kenya's 210 parliamentary seats.

Five presidential candidates and a number of political parties contested Friday's historic election in Kenya. It is only the third time that multi-party elections have been held in the country.

Despite fears of clashes between rival groups as has happened in previous ballots, there have been few reports of violence.

A national mood of calm and enthusiasm existed despite some people queuing for hours only to find their names were not on the electoral register, Reuters reported.

The Commonwealth has congratulated Kenya for holding what it called responsible and orderly elections and showing faith in democratic values, the news agency added.

"The parties are all determined to try and hold down the violence, if at all possible, so that Kenya does not perpetuate a reputation of having violent elections," international observer Gordon Streeb said. "They know they are going through a change. They've got a responsibility. To me that is always a healthy sign."

Moi, 78, who is constitutionally barred from standing again, shrugged off the prospect of electoral defeat for his party, which has been in power for 39 years, and his self-appointed successor.

"Well, that is the way democracy goes," he said. "I had said whoever wins, I will hand over power."

About a tenth of the votes have been counted.

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