Kenyans headed to the polls early Tuesday morning in a hotly contested presidential election. The vote is seen as a key test of stability in a nation regarded as a healthy democracy and a vital economic hub in East Africa.

According to the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, over 22 million voters spread across the 290 constituencies and 46,229 polling centers are expected to participate in the election, which has seen the highest number of candidates since independence.

Across the country, voters lined up hours before polling stations opened at 6 am. Voting started smoothly in most polling stations with the exception of some delays and a few reported challenges with biometric identification kits.

Speaking after casting his vote at Kibera primary school in Nairobi, former prime minister and Azimio la Umoja Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga expressed confidence the election process will be smooth despite hitches.

“We have done our best in terms of campaigns. Now the ball is in the people’s court and I am confident the people of Kenya are going to speak loudly in favor of democratic change,” Odinga said.

His main competitor and current Deputy President William Ruto, who cast his vote at 6 am at Kosachei primary school in Turbo constituency, said his prayer before voting was about having a peaceful election. While hoping this historic election will usher in a new era for the country, Ruto called for a peaceful process.

“This election is going to be a vote that is going to change the destiny of this country. It is a vote of plans and agenda unlike before when people were voting for personality and tribe,” Ruto said. 

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s current president whose term is coming to an end, asked voters to turn out in large numbers to elect leaders of their choice after casting his vote at Mutomo primary school in his hometown of Gatundu.

Official results must be announced within a week of the polls closing and to win outright, a candidate needs more than half of all votes cast. No outright winner will lead to a runoff election within 30 days.