Tanzania opposition will not accept election result, alleges fraud
Tanzania's main opposition presidential candidate Thursday declared he would not recognise the election result as key seats fell to the ruling party in a vote he described as marred by irregularities.
Counting was taking place across Tanzania and its semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar -- which also elects its own president and lawmakers -- where early results showed the opposition losing seats in some traditional strongholds.
Tanzania's elections commission said partial results from 12 of Tanzania's 264 constituencies showed President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term, well ahead with more than 80 percent of the vote. His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has been in power since independence in 1961.
Magufuli's main challenger, the Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu, trailed well behind on 15 percent.
But he has already declared the results "illegitimate" and urged his supporters to demonstrate peacefully, while asking the international community not to recognise the outcome.
"Whatever happened yesterday was not an election, and thus we do not recognise it. We do not accept the result," Lissu told reporters in Dar es Salaam, saying opposition election monitors had been barred from entering polling stations and faced other interference.
"What is being presented to the world is a complete fraud. It is not an election."
As results trickled out on state TV, Chadema chairman and lawmaker Freeman Mbowe lost his long-held seat at Hai in the Kilimanjaro region, one of several lost to the opposition.
On semi-autonomous Zanzibar, where the opposition ACT-Wazalendo said 10 people were killed in the runup to the vote, opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad decried the election as a "military exercise" overshadowed by violence and cheating.
"All the polling stations were surrounded by the military and armed forces," said Hamad, who has accused the ruling party of trying to steal every vote since multi-party democracy was introduced in 1995, and foreign observers have often agreed.
"People who came in to vote, some of them were given three, four ballot papers. When our party agents tried to ask why, they were thrown out. If we don't get our rights through the ballot boxes then we have no choice but to demand this right through the streets."
Following Hamad's remarks, truckloads of police and soldiers who had been patrolling during the election fanned out across the capital Stone Town, causing streets to empty out. Zanzibar has a history of post election violence.
Magufuli, who turns 61 on Thursday, was elected in 2015 as a corruption-busting man of the people, but has drawn criticism over a slide into autocracy, crackdown on the opposition and freedom of speech.
But observers say Tanzania, long deemed a haven of stability in East Africa, has slide towards autocracy under his rule.
His main challenger in a field of 15 presidential candidates is 52-year-old Lissu, who returned to Tanzania in July after three years abroad recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in what he believes was a politically-motivated assassination attempt.
Lissu's return reinvigorated an opposition demoralised by arrests, attacks and a ban on rallies outside of election time.
Social media blocked
However the opposition had already voiced concern about the fairness of the election well ahead of polling.
Chadema secretary general John Mnyika told AFP their lawmaker in the Kawe district of Dar es Salaam, Halima Mdee, was briefly arrested after protesting the discovery of ballot boxes stuffed with "pre-marked votes" in favour of the ruling CCM.
In volatile Zanzibar opposition party officials showed journalists piles of stamped ballots with tick marks next to Magufuli's name.
Tanzania's electoral commission said Wednesday evening they had not received any complaints about alleged incidents of ballot stuffing.
Election commission director Wilson Charles Mahera told reporters results from the presidential election were coming in and they would start publishing preliminary results after verification.
Zanzibar's election body director Thabit Idarous Faina said: "We are finalising tallying, Zanzibar presidential results will be announced within 24 hours."
Tanzania's election, for which around 29 million people were registered to vote on the mainland and 560,000 in Zanzibar, took place largely without external monitors.
Most international media were unable to gain accreditation to cover voting on the mainland, and major social media networks were blocked, accessible only through virtual private networks (VPN).