Vote counting in Tanzania amidst fraud claims

Vote counting in Tanzania amidst fraud claims

Votes are being counted today in what is expected to be Tanzania's tightest election race ever, with the governing party facing the first major challenge to its dominance in decades.


But the opposition Chadema party have alleged rigging in yesterday's presidential, general and local elections.

Chadema spokesman, Tumaini Makene told reporters late yesterday that there are allegations of electoral fraud.

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.

On Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous archipelago which also voted for its own leader, the main opposition presidential candidate declared himself the winner, ahead of any official announcement of results.

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.

Top National Elections Commission (NEC) official Kailima Ramadhani says voting was delayed in some districts, including in some suburbs of the main city Dar es Salaam, after ballot papers were delayed.

Voting kits torched 

Ramadhani says new voting dates for affected districts will be organised.

"In the southwestern Sumbawanga region, armed people attacked a vehicle hired by NEC and burned ballot papers," he said.

While voting otherwise passed off peacefully, senior Chadema official Mwesiga Baregu has told reporters they are concerned at reports of a number of reported interceptions of stuffed (ballot) boxes.

The opposition claims could not be independently verified, but Chadema says it is concerned, adding that police late yesterday arrested some party members at their tallying centre.

"We seem to be heading to results that may not be credible, and therefore might not be accepted not just by political parties, but will not be accepted by the voters themselves," Baregu said.

British High Commissioner Dianna Melrose says she is generally impressed with the polls.

"We witnessed thousands of people with high enthusiasm turning out and reporting at polling stations.

"However, we are concerned with some cases where voting materials were delayed. This left many people frustrated," she said.

Election officials say they expect the results of the presidential race within three days, but some early results should begin arriving today.

CCM election co-ordinator Yusuf Makamba criticised what he called the opposition's "inflammatory statements", warning that comments suggesting they might not accept officials results "may spark unrest".

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.

Zanzibar tensions 

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.

On Zanzibar, a popular tourist destination, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds on polling day, and Britain's Foreign Office today warned there may be heightened tension and unrest after the vote.

Leading candidates in the Zanzibar vote 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, claims to have seen official documents of final voting figures, although there has been no announcement from the electoral commission and the figures could not be verified.

"There is no question, the ruling party has been defeated for the first time since 1977.

"I have won by 52.87% against the incumbent president Dr Ali Mohamed Shein's 47.13%," Hamad said.

The declaration is likely to raise tensions on the islands. Zanzibar has experienced sectarian and political tensions in recent years, including several grenade explosions, with the unrest affecting the islands' key tourist industry.

(Photo: AFP)

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