Uhuru Kenyatta had an early edge as Kenya continued the count in a presidential election that brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.
Kenyans, who waited patiently in long lines, hope the vote will restore the nation's image as one of Africa's more stable democracies after tribal blood-letting killed more than 1,200 people when the result of the 2007 vote was disputed by rivals.
Early counts from Monday's broadly peaceful voting gave an early lead to Kenyatta, the 51-year-old deputy prime minister, over rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 68.
That edge could still be overhauled as it was based on a count of about 10% of votes cast, provisional figures from the election commission indicated.
Election officials had said turnout was more than 70% of the 14.3 million eligible voters but have not given a precise total.
The United States and Western donors have watched the vote closely, concerned about the stability of a nation seen as a regional ally in the fight against militant Islam and fretting about what to do if Kenyatta wins.
He faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) related to the violence five years ago.
For an outright victory, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of votes cast, otherwise the top two face a run-off, provisionally set for April.
Odinga and Kenyatta ran neck-and-neck in polls before the race, well ahead of six other rivals.