By: DANIEL K. KALINAKI
The candidate of the ruling CCM party, John Pombe Magufuli, leads Tanzania’s presidential race after a tally of official results late on Tuesday put him ahead of nearest rival, Edward Lowassa of Chadema and the opposition Ukawa alliance.
Delays in releasing the results, however, continued to stoke tensions and police were deployed in many parts of the country and in parts of the capital, Dar es Salaam, as the anxiety threatened to spill over into violence.
CCM, which has governed Tanzania since independence from Britain in 1961, was also on course to win a reduced majority in Parliament, although the status of Zanzibar remained contested after the opposition claimed it had narrowly won the presidency of the islands for the first time.
With about three million votes announced, Mr Magufuli had polled 1,689,003 votes or 56.68 per cent, ahead of Mr Lowassa who had 41.52 per cent. An earlier tally of fewer results gave Mr Magufuli 64.5 per cent but this had reduced as more results were released.
However, with about 23 million registered voters and with results from many key regions yet to be announced, the figures, which were from 86 out of 264 constituencies, remained inconclusive. Voter turnout, which was only 42 per cent in the last election, was expected to be much higher this time.
More results were expected overnight on Tuesday.
Tanzania uses a first-past-the-post method and whoever gets more votes will be sworn in to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete who is stepping down after two terms in office.
There are six other candidates in the presidential race, including the only female, Anna Elisha Mghwira of the ACT party, but they collectively had less than two per cent of the vote by press time.
CCM surged ahead in the parliamentary race, winning 92 out of the first 129 races called with Chadema, at 28, beating its mark of 24 in the out-going Parliament with many more races yet to be called.
The Civic United Front, which is part of the opposition alliance, had 8 seats while NCCR-Mageuzi had one. The new Parliament will have 265 seats, up from 239.
Agriculture minister and veteran CCM politician Stephen Wasira was one of many high-profile victims of the country’s most competitive election, losing his parliamentary seat to Chadema’s Ester Bulaya.
Investment minister Christopher Chiza, deputy health minister Stephen Kebwe and deputy education minister Anna Kilango were some of the other high-profile losers.
Police in Zanzibar fired teargas to disperse opposition supporters after Seif Sharif Hamad declared himself winner of the presidential election on the island, ahead of incumbent and CCM candidate, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein.
Clashes were reported in other parts of the country between rival supporters and with the police, testing Tanzania’s reputation for comparatively peaceful political contests on the continent.
African, Commonwealth and European election observers gave their preliminary reports on Tuesday commending the peaceful nature of the polling on Sunday but the EU delegation said the process had not been fully transparent.
The elections “were highly contested, largely well administered, although insufficient efforts at transparency meant that both the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not enjoy the full confidence of all parties”, the EU observers said in a statement.
The head of the EU observer team, Judith Sargentini, said they were “closely following” the dismantling of an opposition election results tally centre and the arrest, on Sunday night, of 191 opposition officials involved in the exercise.
Electoral officials have denied allegations of bias by the opposition in releasing results and said final results will be released by Thursday.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tuesday
Tanzania’s ruling party presidential candidate took an early lead on Tuesday as election officials counted votes in a close race for a second day, while several key ministers lost their seats.
The polls are expected to be Tanzania’s tightest election ever, with the governing party facing the first major challenge to its dominance in decades.
Amid growing tension, the election commission has called for calm and warned only it can declare results.
“People should ignore announcements by other institutions and individuals,” National Electoral Commission (NEC) head Damian Lubuva told reporters.
The opposition Chadema party has alleged rigging in Sunday’s presidential, general and local elections.
In Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous archipelago which also voted for its own leader, the main opposition presidential candidate declared himself the winner on Monday, ahead of any official announcement of results.
Police on the Indian Ocean islands fired tear gas to break up crowds, while foreign embassies warned visitors to the popular tourist destination to avoid large crowds.
Security forces on Tuesday surrounded the islands’ main tallying and results centre after opposition challenger Seif Sharif Hamad repeated warnings that he “will not concede defeat if robbed of my victory.”
Zanzibar police chief Hamdan Omar said they had had “problems with some groups attempting to organise illegal demonstrations”, and were “investigating reports” people had been shot and wounded in clashes on Monday.
MAGUGULI TAKES EARLY LEAD
In the national presidential race, John Magufuli of the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is seen as the narrow favourite to beat ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa, a CCM stalwart who recently defected to Chadema, which is heading a coalition of opposition parties.
With just 10 percent of districts counted, Magufuli took an early lead, winning over 455,454 votes compared to Lowassa’s 308,240 votes, from 27 out of 260 constituencies.
Agriculture minister Stephen Wasira — a veteran CCM politician of over three decades — lost his seat to Chadema.
“This shows the potential of our young candidates — Wasira had been minister and in parliament for over 30 years but he lost to a young lady, Ester Bulaya,” said top Chadema official John Mrema.
Other ousted CCM heavyweights include investment minister Christopher Chiza, deputy health minister Stephen Kebwe and deputy education minister Anna Kilango.
Analysts have warned that the unusually tight race could spark tensions, with the opposition providing the first credible challenge to the CCM since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1995.
African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma praised Tanzania for the conduct of the elections, but also warned candidates to put “their country above all other interests” as results are announced.
OPPOSITION CLAIM ZANZIBAR WIN
“Let election officials in the districts announce the results of parliamentary and civic polls, while the NEC will release results in the presidential election,” the NEC’s Lubuva added. “If this is not controlled it can trigger confusion and public unrest.”
Many believe 55-year old Magufuli — currently minister of works, for which he earned the nickname “The Bulldozer” — will face a tough challenge from Lowassa, 62.
Lowassa was prime minister from 2005 until his resignation in 2008 over corruption allegations that he denies, and has for years been a CCM loyalist, but on the campaign trail he called for an end to the party’s rule.
Outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete, who is not running having served his constitutional two-term limit, ordered the police to boost security to ensure calm in the country of 52 million people, of whom 22 million were registered to vote.
Presidential results are expected on Thursday.
In Zanzibar, leading candidates are incumbent President Ali Mohamed Shein of the ruling CCM, and current Vice-President Seif Sharif Hamad from the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), who shared power in a unity government.
Hamad, 71, claimed on Monday to have won, although there has been no announcement from the electoral commission and the figures he quoted to declare victory could not be verified.