Kenya shilling firmer on reassurance over delayed elections

NAIROBI, March 7 Thu Mar 7, 2013 2:35am EST

NAIROBI, March 7 (Reuters) - The Kenyan shilling rose almost 1 percent against the dollar on Thursday as investors took heart from reassurances that Monday's presidential election would deliver a credible result despite long delays.

Traders said commercial banks were trimming long dollar positions following the reassurances from the electoral commission, issued following technological hitches experienced during the tallying of votes.

Trading in the shilling has been volatile since the election.

It firmed 0.8 percent to 85.90/86.10 early in Thursday's session, clawing back most of Wednesday's losses, when fears that delays in the announcement might see candidates challenging the outcome of the vote knocked the local currency.

"Some people may be taking the view that the elections will be credible. Nobody has been radical so far and that has provided confidence for the shilling," said Duncan Kinuthia, head of trading at Commercial Bank of Africa.

By 0655 GMT, with more than 4.5 million votes tallied, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta had 2.4 million votes to Prime Minister Raila Odinga's 1.8 million.

That tally would give Kenyatta more than 50 percent, which if maintained through the count would give him an outright victory, but there is still a long way to go as turnout was estimated at more than 70 percent of the 14.3 million voters.

The shilling, off its 18-week high of 85.10 hit on Tuesday after voting passed off peacefully, is down 0.2 percent against the greenback so far this year.

The slow release of results has increased anxiety among Kenyans and led to complaints from political parties, including accusations of foreign meddling in the process. But on Thursday, results from around the country looked to be emerging faster than before.

"The gridlock seems to have been resolved. A bit of the political noise may end soon," said a senior trader in a commercial bank. "With the tallying now going smoothly, we are likely to see the final results in the near future."

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