Monday, October 26, 2015 2:12 pm
Tanzania’s ruling party looked set to win presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday despite a challenge to its five decades in power from former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who has voiced concerns the poll may not be free or fair.
But members of the opposition Ukawa coalition, are alleging vote fraud and police intimidation.
The Chadema party said on Monday police had detained 40 of its volunteers in an incident marring an otherwise broadly peaceful voting process.
“Police also confiscated computers and mobile phones of our volunteers who were tallying results of the presidential election,” John Malya, a Chadema lawyer, said.
Late on Sunday Chadema party, part of the opposition coalition led by Lowassa, said police raided its vote-tallying centre in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam and arrested opposition officials.
Another opposition party, the Civic United Front, said police fired teargas at a crowd of supporters celebrating what the party said was its victory in Sunday’s race on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar.
Official results are not expected out until later this week.
Tanzania has been one of Africa’s most stable democracies, although Zanzibar has often been a hotspot for tensions because of strong local opposition and loud Islamist and separatist voices.
The race for president has pitted the ruling CCM’s Works Minister John Magufuli against a coalition of opposition parties led by former prime minister Edward Lowassa, who defected from the CCM just three months ago.
Any dispute in the outcome of the election – billed as the tightest race in Tanzania’s post-independence history – could raise tensions in a nation which has been relatively stable since British rule ended in 1961.
Some officials and analysts have voiced particular concern about rising tensions in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, where the opposition had accused the government of intimidation ahead of the polls.
But voting was broadly peaceful across the vast East African nation of 47 million people, with a high turnout in many urban areas leading to delays.
Opinion polls and analysts have forecast a presidential victory for John Magufuli, the ruling CCM party’s candidate. But many expect CCM’s parliamentary majority to dwindle after the opposition united behind a single candidate for the first time.
In power for more than half a century, CCM has faced growing pressure to speed up development of Tanzania’s significant natural gas resources to spur economic growth and lower stubbornly high poverty rates.