NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenya's last ballots for its presidential race were being counted Friday and Uhuru Kenyatta, the leading candidate, saw his percentage yo-yo above and below the crucial 50 percent mark that would hand him an outright win and avoid a runoff.
The latest vote tally showed Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, with 49.9 percent of the vote. A little more than 80 percent of voting locations had been tabulated. Earlier, Kenyatta briefly broke above 50 percent before the election commission gave another of its frequent updates.
Electoral expert Tom Wolf, a research analyst with the polling firm Ipsos Synovate, told The Associated Press that the outstanding votes coming in from Kenya's Rift Valley are a "very abundant vote basket" for Kenyatta. His running mate, William Ruto, is from the Rift.
The 50 percent mark is a must if Kenyatta is to avoid a challenging runoff with the other top candidate, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The election commission announced late Friday afternoon it intended to finish the counting process by the end of the day.
Kenya's capital, Nairobi, has been sleepy since Monday's vote for president, the country's first election since its 2007 vote sparked tribe-on-tribe violence that killed more than 1,000 people. But groups of security forces in riot gear took to the streets Friday in regions of the city that could turn tumultuous after results are announced.
The prime minister's supporters turned violent after Odinga in 2007 said he had been cheated. In Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum and a bastion of Odinga support, many believed this year's results had been rigged as well.
Isaiah Omondi, 27, panel beater from Kibera who was dressed printed with Odinga face printed on the front says he does not trust the results of the presidential race.
"If you look at the way the tallying is being done there is rigging," said Isiah Omondi, 27. "If Uhuru wins and wins fairly, we don't have a problem with him. He can be our president. But not like this."
A Kenyatta win could have far-reaching consequences with Western relations. The son of Kenya's founding father, Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court for his role in directing some of the 2007 postelection violence.
The U.S. has warned of "consequences" if Kenyatta is to win, as have several European countries. Britain, which ruled Kenya up until the early 1960s, has said they would only have essential contact with a President Kenyatta.
The U.S. Embassy in Kenya is larger than any American mission in Africa, underscoring Kenya's strong role in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. also has military forces stationed here near the border with Somalia. Kenya, the lynchpin of East Africa's economy, plays a vital security role in the fight against Somali militants.
Kenyatta's ICC trial is set to begin in July and could take years, meaning that if he wins he may have to rule Kenya from The Hague for the first half of his presidency. Another option is, as president, to decide not to go. But that decision would trigger an international arrest warrant and spark even more damaging effects for Kenya's standing with the West.
Kenyatta has promised to report to The Hague even if he wins the presidency.
Associated Press reporters Rodney Muhumuza and Tom Odula contributed to this report.