Tanzanian President John Magufuli and his ruling party were headed for a landslide victory in presidential and parliamentary elections Friday, which the opposition has roundly rejected, citing fraud such as ballot box stuffing.
Magufuli had the majority of votes with results from 60 percent of 264 constituencies so far in the presidential election, while his ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) had won all but two of around 200 parliamentary seats announced.
The near certain victory will further cement the power of a party which has been in power since independence in 1961 and stands accused of a worrying slide into autocracy under Magufuli who has cracked down on the opposition and free speech.
Magufuli’s main challenger, the Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu, on Thursday declared the results coming in “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.”
The result of presidential elections cannot be contested in Tanzania, though the parliamentary outcome can be challenged.
Lissu, 52, 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.
His return reinvigorated an opposition demoralised by years of attacks, arrests and a ban on political rallies, with massive crowds seen throughout his campaign.
However several opposition MPs lost seats in long-held bastions, such as Chadema chairman and lawmaker Freeman Mbowe of Hai in the Kilimanjaro region, and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Halima Mdee, head of the Chadema woman’s wing, who was briefly arrested on election day after protesting the discovery of ballot boxes stuffed with “pre-marked votes”, lost her seat in Kawe in Dar es Salaam.
A statement from the US embassy said “irregularities and the overwhelming margins of victory raise serious doubts about the credibility of the results” and the government’s “commitment to democratic values”.
The election took place with little monitoring from foreign observers and most international media were unable to gain accreditation to cover voting on the mainland.
Major social media networks remained blocked Friday, accessible only through virtual private networks (VPN).
Trouble in paradise
In semi-autonomous Zanzibar, which elects its own president and MPs, the streets were quiet and only a few pick-up trucks carrying police circulated after CCM candidate Hussein Ali Mwinyi was declared the local winner.
The Indian Ocean archipelago, which has a history of violent and contested polls, saw only four of 50 parliamentary seats go to the opposition ACT Wazalendo.
Opposition leader Seif Sharif Mohammed was arrested the day before the vote, as well as the day following the vote, and decried the election as a “military exercise” overshadowed by violence and cheating.
His party said he was released after the election results were announced, while party spokesman Ismail Jussa was badly beaten, sustaining a broken leg and shoulder fracture during their arrest.
Hamad 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.
The islands swarmed with police, soldiers — some on armoured personnel carriers — and the feared “zombie” private militia of the ruling party in recent days.
The opposition said 10 people were killed on Monday and Tuesday.
The opposition and commentators voiced concern about the fairness of the election well ahead of polling.
“This year it was very different. There was lots of intimidation, violence, kidnapping. Two of our polling agents were kidnapped and very badly beaten,” said Tanzanian political analyst Aikande Kwayu, who supports the opposition.
“We knew it wouldn’t be free and fair, but nobody expected this,” she told AFP.
“I think we have moved from being a democracy to full authoritarianism.”
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