Kenya votes against constitution

Voters in Kenya appear to have emphatically rejected a proposed new constitution, partial results show. Early returns from at least half the votes counted put the "No" campaign in the lead with a margin of over 15%.

President Mwai Kibaki has backed the charter, which introduces the post of prime minister. Opponents want more powers for the new office. If the result is confirmed, it will cause huge political difficulties for Mr Kibaki, says the BBC's Adam Mynott. The result will be seen as a protest vote against Mr Kibaki, ahead of general elections due in 2007.

The president is due to address the nation at 1200 local time (0900GMT). Our correspondent reports from Nairobi that the margin in favour of those rejecting the proposed constitution may widen, as many of votes from the "Yes" campaign's heartland have already come in. "According to results we have tallied, the 'No' team is apparently unbeatable," an unnamed election official told the AFP news agency.

Mr Kibaki's cabinet was split, with seven ministers joining with the opposition, urging voters to reject the constitution. Our correspondent says early returns have shown Kenyans voting according to tribal affiliations - evidence of how the referendum campaign has split the nation along ethnic lines.

Turnout in Kenya's 210 constituencies is believed to have been more than 54%. The election commission said the voting had been mostly peaceful and had gone pretty smoothly. Minor clashes occurred in the town of Kisumu and Nairobi's Kibera slum.

During the campaigning, nine people were killed in violent clashes. The "Yes" team used the banana symbol, while an orange represented the "No" campaign.

The fruits were chosen by Kenya's electoral commission as non-party political symbols and to aid illiterate voters. Security across Kenya was increased for the voting, with some 50,000 police drafted onto the streets.

The new constitution would also provide greater rights for women, devolution and land reform. Kenya's basic law has not been re-written since independence from the UK in 1963. The president has promised a new constitution since 2002 but the drafting process has seen many delays. Opponents say his final draft reneged on previous promises, reports BBC news. I.L.

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