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Fear of violence grows as Tanzania opposition denounces election

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By AL JAZEERA

The process was like ‘spitting in the face of democracy’, says opposition candidate, appearing to warn of unrest.

Tanzania’s main opposition presidential candidate on Thursday declared he would not recognise the election result as key seats fell to the governing party in a vote he said was marred by irregularities.

Counting was taking place across Tanzania and its semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar – which also elects its own president and legislators – where early results showed the opposition losing seats in some traditional strongholds.

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President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term, has the lead in more than a dozen constituency results announced by the Tanzania election commission.

His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has been in power since independence in 1961, but rights groups have decried a slide into “autocracy” over the past five years marked by the repression of the opposition.

Magufuli’s main challenger, the Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu, declared the results trickling through “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 process was like “spitting in the face of democracy”, said Lissu, appearing to warn of unrest.

“Those in power are telling Tanzanians, ‘If you want change, look for it another way, not through the ballot box,’” he told reporters. “The message they are sending is, ‘Use force if you can… We won’t let you win through democracy.’”

He added, however, unlike the government, “we do not have the instruments of violence”.

Many across Africa have watched in dismay at what they have described as Tanzania’s abandonment of its long reputation of democratic ideals under the populist Magufuli.

The results 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 members of Parliament lost seats in long-held bastions, such as Chadema chairman and legislator Freeman Mbowe of Hai in the Kilimanjaro region.

Trouble in paradise

In volatile Zanzibar, opposition presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad was arrested along with top leaders of the ACT-Wazalendo party, after he called for protests against election results there.

The opposition said 10 people were killed in the run-up to the vote, and 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 governing 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,” he said.

“If we don’t get our rights through the ballot boxes then we have no choice but to demand this right through the streets.”

As Hamad and party leaders left to the protest they called, police fired tear gas at the group before bundling them into their truck.

“Presidential candidate Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad has been arrested while going to lead peaceful demonstrations against election results,” party official Salum Abdalla Bimani told the AFP news agency.

Truckloads of police and soldiers who had been patrolling during the election fanned out across the capital Stone Town, causing streets to empty out.

The feared “zombie” private militia of the ruling party swarmed the city, clad in black and with bandannas covering their faces.

Police did not immediately comment but confirmed at least 70 arrests in the past two days in election-related incidents. Streets into Zanzibar’s main city, Stone Town, were blocked.

“Tanzania in full blown one party dictatorship. We shall resist this,” ACT Wazalendo chair Zitto Kabwe tweeted, later alleging one of the arrested party members was badly beaten. “I ask the international community NOT to recognize this Tanzanian election.”

The East African nation’s electoral commission has denied allegations of voting irregularities in one of Africa’s most populous countries and fastest-growing economies. Election results could be announced on Friday.

The commission released results for 18 out of 264 constituencies showing Magufuli with the early lead.
‘Full authoritarianism’

The opposition and commentators had already 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 and was on the ground in Hai.

“We knew it wouldn’t be free and fair, but nobody expected this,” she said.”I think we have moved from being a democracy to full authoritarianism. There will be no critical voice left. It is going to be a very difficult next five years.”

Tanzania’s electoral commission said on Wednesday it had not received any complaints about incidents of ballot stuffing.

Tanzania’s election, for which about 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).

Tanzania Elections Watch, a regional group of eminent people, expressed concerns about the credibility and conduct of the election, noting deadly violence on the eve of the vote in Zanzibar, massive disruption in internet and text messaging services, and the reported arrests of candidates on election day.

“Unfortunately, in Tanzania the announcement made by the National Electoral Commission is final,” the group’s co-chair Frederick Ssempebwa told a briefing, as results cannot be challenged in court. “There is no avenue for the aggrieved parties to air their views.”

The declaration of results could trigger a wave of instability, Ssempebwa added.

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By AFP via AL JAZEERA

Tanzania opposition loses key seats in vote marred by fraud claim

Counting is under way across Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar after opposition reported ballot box stuffing.

Election commission official Wilson Charles Mahera said they would shortly begin releasing results from a presidential race [File: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP]
29 Oct 2020

Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) began releasing parliamentary election results on Thursday with the opposition losing key seats in a vote they said was riddled with irregularities.

Counting was taking place across Tanzania and its semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar – which also elects its own president and lawmakers – after the opposition reported ballot box stuffing and their party agents thrown out of polling stations.

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As results trickled out on state TV, opposition Chadema lawmaker and chairman Freeman Mbowe lost his long-held seat at Hai in the Kilimanjaro region, one of several lost by the opposition.

“We can’t talk about elections. It is violence. There were several deplorable incidents across the country,” Mbowe told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

Mbowe, who was brutally assaulted in what he said was a politically-motivated attack in June, tweeted that his life was “in danger” on the eve of the election, accusing police of raiding his hotel.

There are 264 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the election.

The NEC director of elections, Wilson Charles Mahera, said they would shortly begin releasing results from a presidential race in which John Magufuli is seeking a second term in office.

“The commission is starting to receive results from the presidential election … after verification, we will at any moment start publishing preliminary results,” he told reporters.

Long deemed a haven of stability in East Africa, observers say Tanzania is sliding into autocracy under Magufuli and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has been in power since independence in 1961.

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.

His main challenger in a field of 15 presidential candidates is 52-year-old Tundu 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.

Lissu told Reuters news agency the defects in the process meant that the results – expected within a week – could not be trusted.

“The results should not be recognised by any country in the world, should not be recognised by the African Union and the Commonwealth,” Lissu told Reuters, urging the world to take action against “those who perpetrated this travesty”.Zanzibar, which has a history of contested, violent elections, voted under heavy security, and police and soldiers [File: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP]
Social media blocked

However, the opposition had already voiced concern about the fairness of the election ahead of polling, and on Wednesday both parties on mainland Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar cried foul.

“Voting reports indicate widespread irregularities in the form of preventing our polling agents from accessing polling stations,” Lissu, from the Chadema party, said on Twitter.

“If this continues, mass democratic action will be the only option to protect the integrity of the election.”

Chadema secretary general John Mnyika told AFP their lawmaker in the Kawe district of Dar es Salaam, Halima Mdee, was briefly arrested after protesting in the wake of the discovery of ballot boxes stuffed with “pre-marked votes” in favour of the ruling CCM.

In volatile Zanzibar, where the opposition ACT-Wazalendo said 10 people were killed in the run-up to the vote, party official Muhene Said Rashid showed journalists piles of stamped ballots with tick marks next to Magufuli’s name which he said had been seized from CCM “zealots”.

He said party agents had been kicked out of some polling stations.

The chairman of NEC, Semistocles Kaijage, said on Wednesday night they had not yet received complaints on the incidents of ballot stuffing.

Zanzibar, which has a history of contested, violent elections, voted under heavy security, and police and soldiers, some on armoured personnel carriers, continued to patrol throughout Wednesday evening.

An AFP reporter saw security forces beating several civilians.

Assistant police chief Awadhi Juma Haji said they were “just ensuring our people of security. We were alert, no need to panic.”

Zanzibar’s election body director Thabit Idarous Faina said: “We are finalising tallying, Zanzibar presidential results will be announced within 24 hours.”

Opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad has accused the governing party of trying to steal every vote since multiparty democracy was introduced in 1995. Foreign observers have often agreed.

Tanzania’s election, for which about 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 popular social media networks were blocked, accessible only through virtual private networks (VPN).

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: October 29, 2020 at 10:04PM

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