Zanzibar poll-axes Tanzania elections

OWN CORRESPONDENT, Zanzibar | Monday

ELECTIONS in Tanzania have been dumped into chaos after the polling authority in the semi-autonomous island state of Zanzibar cancelled voting in 16 of the state’s 50 constituencies following a litany of irregularities.

In contrast to the smoothness of proceedings on the mainland, where polls generally opened and closed according to schedule, election day in Zanzibar saw numerous electoral irregularities at polling stations.

The Zanzibar Election Commission (ZEC)‘s Idriss Jecha told journalists that vote counting across the state, which includes the island of Pemba, an opposition stronghold, would be suspended until voting was repeated in the 16 constituencies.

Around 10 million voters across the United Republic of Tanzania were eligible to take part in the polls for the union president and parliament, while Zanzibaris were in addition voting for their own president and House of Representatives. Local council elections were also held Sunday across Tanzania.

Union President Benjamin Mkapa is deemed almost certain to win a second five-year term.

The presidential contest in Zanzibar is a fierce and closely fought one between the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), or Revolutionary Party and the opposition Civic United Front.

In the run-up to the polls both sides predicted victory, with the CUF insisting defeat could only mean a repetition of the 1995 elections, widely believed to be have been rigged in favour of the CCM.

CUF Presidential candidate Seif Shariff Hamad had no doubts foul play was afoot.

“You can’t say we have an election now, just chaos,” he said after waiting almost five hours to vote. “My conclusion is that it seems to me there has been… a sort of plot between CCM and ZEC to disrupt this exercise,” Hamad said.

At one polling station in Zanzibar’s old Stone Town, people whose names did not appear on the electoral register were still allowed to vote.

CUF agents there said they had been forbidden to take down the names of these voters and from taking notes at all during the election.

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