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Tanzania awaits election results

Tanzanians waited on Thursday for the results of an election likely to hand the presidency to Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, but there was tension for a second day on the volatile Zanzibar islands.
/ Source: Reuters

Tanzanians waited on Thursday for the results of an election likely to hand the presidency to Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, but there was tension for a second day on the volatile Zanzibar islands.

As results trickled in, the African Union (AU) praised Tanzania for the conduct of its third multi-party election since political pluralism was re-introduced in the early 1990s.

Kikwete, 55, was the firm favorite to replace outgoing President Benjamin Mkapa on pledges to continue his free-market economic policies and create more jobs.

That would extend the political dominance of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM or Party of the Revolution) which has ruled east Africa’s geographically largest country for four decades.

Zanzibar unrest
Once again, however, Tanzania’s reputation for peace and stability was tarnished by events in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago which is an opposition stronghold.

The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) accused police of using teargas on Thursday against its supporters in historic Stone Town. “Right now the police have surrounded Stone Town and are lobbing tear gas,” spokesman Salim Bimani said.

He added that there were reports of four people being injured in Tumbatu island “after security people went from door to door beating up people.”

Police in Zanzibar denied both accusations.

“We are on normal patrols to make sure everything is peaceful,” Ramadhani Kinyogo, a deputy director of criminal investigations, told Reuters.

An Oct. 30 election for Zanzibar’s local parliament and presidency, won by the ruling CCM, sparked violence and fraud allegations. Zanzibaris’ participation in the national vote on Wednesday revived some of those tensions.

The worst trouble appeared to have been in Nungwi, a northern constituency of Unguja island, where police on Wednesday opened fire to disperse CUF supporters chasing away voters they said were not from the area.

One person was shot in the thigh in the incident.

Zanzibar prisons authorities said on Thursday four of their female officers were “kidnapped” by CUF supporters. Two managed to escape but two others were beaten up before being released. “They sustained head and arm injuries,” prisons doctor Haji Amour told a news conference.

Overall, elections praised
The 12-member AU observer team did not have representatives in Zanzibar but praised the overall handling of the election.

“Overall the elections were administered in an efficient manner although some areas could have been improved on,” Baleka Mbete, head of the AU delegation, told a news conference.

Actual ballot counting had ended by Thursday, and results from the country’s 232 constituencies were being sent in to the electoral board for final collation.

Opposition parties were expected to make small gains at the poll, partly because of discontent over poverty and corruption. But surveys and analysts said the ruling CCM looked unbeatable.

The CCM and its predecessor, the Tanganyika African National Union, have held power since independence in the coffee-growing country which is one of Africa’s main per capita aid recipients.