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Zanzibar's disputed poll turns deadly

Ruling party candidate Amani Abeid Karume was narrowly re-elected president of Tanzania’s volatile Zanzibar islands, officials said on Tuesday, a result likely to be greeted with outrage by the opposition.
/ Source: Reuters

Police clashed with opposition supporters Tuesday after the ruling party was declared the winner of elections marred by allegations of vote-rigging, and officials said nine people were killed — five protesters and four police.

Unrest across the Zanzibar archipelago, which is part of Tanzania but semiautonomous, came as the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or Revolutionary Party, was declared winner of presidential and parliamentary elections that were marred by violence and allegations of rigging.

Seif Shariff Hamad of the main opposition Civic United Front said the five supporters died on the island of Pemba. A member of the government security force said four of his colleagues were killed, also on Pemba. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The deaths took place when police and opposition officials clashed on Pemba’s main road near the village of Konde, according to witnesses contacted by telephone. Demonstrators reportedly set up roadblocks around Konde, cutting the island in half.

Government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier, police backed by troops beat opposition supporters at party headquarters on Pemba, according to witnesses who declined to be identified for fear of retribution.

The Civic United Front had said earlier that one person was killed in his Pemba home. It was unclear if that death was among the five reported by Hamad, the opposition leader.

On the main island of Unguja, opposition supporters clashed with police in the early morning, with a standoff with police at party headquarters in the narrow alleyways that make up the Stone Town neighborhood.

Thousands of opposition supporters, mostly young men, have fought police in running battles for the past two days in Stone Town and elsewhere on Unguja.

Opposition says robbed of victory
The socialist Chama Cha Mapinduzi has ruled the “spice islands” for more than 30 years. The Civic United Front, which promises privatization and wholesale economic reform, claims it was robbed of victory by violence and fraud in elections in 1995 and 2000, and again accuses Chama Cha Mapinduzi of fraud this year.

Zanzibar’s electoral chief Masauni Yussuf Massauni said Tuesday that incumbent Amani Abeid Karume of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 53.2 percent of the vote, while Hamad had 46.1 percent — his third successive close defeat.

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi was declared the winner of 30 seats and the Civic United Front 19 in the 50-seat race for the House of Representatives. Results for one seat were nullified because of irregularities.

“We are not accepting these results,” Hamad told journalists in an office filled with the smell of tear gas as thousands of young men gathered.

Hamad, who had earlier claimed to have won the presidential vote, called for mass public protest nationwide, but did not say when they should begin.

Two boats full of infantry troops left Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam on Tuesday for Zanzibar.

Police had stopped Hamad from driving to his headquarters, which had been surrounding since dawn. As he walked through a ruling party area, he was heckled. But when he entered a neighborhood of his supporters, he was greeted with chants of “the president, the president.”

Cheers of ruling party supporters could be heard in the distance.

Faltering democracy
Opposition protests of alleged fraud killed dozens in the wake of the 2000 elections. Islamic radicals could find an opening in this devoutly Muslim region if the latest vote is seen as flawed and therefore proof that democracy cannot work here.

The National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-based election organization, said in a preliminary report Tuesday that while the administration of the election was a marked improvement over 2000, the team observed multiple voting, underage voting, illegal voting by military personnel and failure by electoral authorities to release the voters’ register to the public before election day.

Earlier, observers from African organizations and the Commonwealth of former British territories had called the election generally free and fair, although the Commonwealth observers noted problems with the voter list.