Tension mounts as Tanzania awaits result of epic polls

TANZANIA

Tanzanian officials are counting votes for a second day Tuesday as the nation awaits the outcome of the presidential, general and local elections.

The country’s electoral commission has called for calm and warned only it can declare results, even as the main opposition Chadema Party has alleged rigging in Sunday’s polls.

Already, political tensions have escalated in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous archipelago which also voted for its own leader, after the main opposition presidential candidate declared himself the winner on Monday, ahead of any official announcement of results.

Police on the Indian Ocean islands have fired tear gas to break up crowds, while foreign embassies warned visitors to the popular tourist destination to avoid large crowds. “People should ignore announcements by other institutions and individuals,” National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairman Damian Lubuva told reporters.

While some parliamentary results began trickling on Monday, presidential results are not expected until later in the week.

In the national presidential race, John Magufuli of the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is seen as the narrow favourite to beat ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa, a CCM stalwart who recently defected to Chadema, which is heading a coalition of opposition parties.

Analysts have warned that the unusually tight race could spark tensions, with the opposition providing the first credible challenge to the CCM since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1995. “Let election officials in districts announce results of parliamentary and civic polls, while NEC will release results in presidential election,” Lubuva added.

“If this is not controlled it can trigger confusion and public unrest,” he said.

Many believe 55-year old Magufuli — currently minister of works, for which he earned the nickname “The Bulldozer” — will face a tough challenge from Lowassa, 62.

Lowassa was prime minister from 2005 until his resignation in 2008 over corruption allegations that he denies, and has for years been a CCM loyalist, but on the campaign trail he called for an end to the party’s rule.

Outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete, who is not running having served his constitutional two-term limit, ordered the police to boost security to ensure calm in the country of 52 million people, of whom 22 million were registered to vote.

In Zanzibar, leading candidates are incumbent President Ali Mohamed Shein of the ruling CCM, and current Vice-President Seif Sharif Hamad from the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), who shared power in a unity government.

Hamad, 71, claimed on Monday to have won, although there has been no announcement from the electoral commission and the figures he quoted to declare victory could not be verified.

The archipelago’s capital, Zanzibar town, was reported to be quiet overnight Monday, with large numbers of police patrolling the streets.

By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)

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