Tanzania’s biggest opposition presidential candidate declared on Thursday that he would not recognize the result of an election that he said was marred by irregularities such as
Counting was underway on the Tanzanian mainland, while the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar – which elects its own president and legislators – announced the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate Hussein Ali Mwinyi as the victor.
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli took an early lead as the results trickled in, winning about 85 percent of the 32 constituency results announced by the Tanzania Electoral Commission out of 264.
The CCM has been in power since independence in 1961, but rights groups have rejected a shift in autocracy over the past five years marked by repression of the opposition.
Magufuli’s main challenger, Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu, declared the results “illegal” and called on his supporters to demonstrate peacefully, while urging the international community not to recognize the result.
“Regardless of what happened yesterday, there were no elections, and therefore we do not recognize it. We do not accept the result, “Lissu told reporters in Dar es Salaam, saying opposition opposition monitors had been prevented from entering the polls and faced other interference.
“What is presented to the world is a complete deception. It is not a choice. ”
The outcome of the presidential election cannot be disputed in Tanzania, although the parliamentary outcome may be challenged.
Lissu, 52, returned to Tanzania in July after three years abroad to recover from 16 bullet wounds inflicted in what he believes was a politically motivated assassination attempt.
His return strengthened an opposition that was demoralized by years of attacks, arrests and a ban on political rallies, with plenty of crowds seen throughout his campaign.
However, several opposition MPs lost seats in long-standing bastions, such as Chadema chairman and lawmaker Freeman Mbowe of Hai in the Kilimanjaro region and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Out of 264 parliamentary seats, CCM has so far won 128 and lost only one to the small Civic United Front Party.
A statement from the US Embassy said that “irregularities and the overwhelming margins of victory raise serious doubts about the credibility of the result” and the government’s “commitment to democratic values”.
Withholding opposition leaders is not a government action that is certain of its election victory. Maalim Seif and his colleagues released immediately https://t.co/O2a1inQfC1
– Ambassador Donald J. Wright (@USAmbTanzania) October 29, 2020
Problems in paradise
In unstable Zanzibar, which has a history of voting violence, cheers and loud music flowed over the capital, Stone Town, as the Electoral Commission declared Mwinyi the winner with 76 percent of the vote.
There was some tension over the outcome as opposition presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad and top ACT-Wazalendo party leaders were in jail when the results were announced.
The opposition said ten people were killed Monday and Tuesday, and Hamad rejected the election as a “military exercise” overshadowed by violence and fraud.
He has accused the ruling party of trying to steal every vote since multi-party democracy was introduced in 1995, and foreign observers often agree.
“People who came in to vote, some of them got three, four ballots. “When our party agents tried to ask why, they were thrown out,” he said.
“If we do not get our rights through the ballot papers, we have no choice but to demand this right through the streets.”
When Hamad and party leaders joined the protest, they called, police fired tear gas at the group before bundling them in a truck, party official Salum Abdalla Bimani told AFP. Hamad was already arrested on Tuesday before being released.
Truckloads of police and soldiers who had been patrolling during the election went over the capital Stone Town, causing the streets to be emptied out.
The ruling party’s feared “zombie” private militias swarmed the city, dressed in black and with bandanas covering their faces.
The opposition and commentators expressed concern about the fairness of the election well before the vote.
“This year it was very different. There was lots of intimidation, violence, kidnapping. Two of our voting agents were kidnapped and beaten very hard, “said Tanzanian political analyst Aikande Kwayu, who supports the opposition and was on the ground in Hai.
“We knew it would not be free and fair, but no one expected this,” she told AFP.
“I think we have gone from being a democracy to full authoritarianism.”
Tanzania’s Electoral Commission said Wednesday night that it had not received any complaints about incidents involving voting.
Most international media were unable to get accreditation to cover mainland voting, and large social media networks were blocked, accessible only via virtual private networks (VPNs).