Tanzania’s main opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has 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.
Early results showed the opposition losing seats in some traditional strongholds.
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.
He said opposition election monitors had been barred from entering polling stations and faced other interference.
The process was like “spitting in the face of democracy,” said Lissu, warning of unrest.
“Those in power are telling Tanzanians, ‘If you want change, look for it another way, not through the ballot box. The message they are sending is ‘Use force if you can… We won’t let you win through democracy.” He said.
Lissu added, “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.
[Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli. Photo/courtesy].
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 bolstered, 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.
He continued, “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.
Truckloads of police and soldiers who had been patrolling during the election fanned out across the capital Stone Town, causing streets to empty out.