UPDATED: Tanzania ruling party keeps lead as opposition rejects poll; several ministers lose seats

Security forces surrounded Zanzibar's results centre after opposition leader repeated warnings he "will not concede defeat if robbed of my victory."

THE Tanzanian ruling party’s presidential candidate maintained his lead in the country’s Oct. 25 elections with results from almost half of all constituencies counted, the National Electoral Commission said. 

The main opposition party said it will reject the outcome of the poll.

John Magufuli of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party is beating opposition candidate Edward Lowassa, of Chadema, in 90 of the 115 constituencies counted so far, Damian Lubuva, chairman of the commission, told reporters on Tuesday in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The nation has 264 voting districts. 

Chadema’s chairman, Freeman Mbowe, said on Tuesday that an independent count the party is conducting at polling stations across the country is different from the official tally and the results won’t be accepted. 

 Well organised, little transparency

While the poll was generally well organised, the electoral administration displayed “insufficient transparency,” the European Union’s Chief Observer Judith Sargentini told reporters. 

A new leader for the union government of mainland Tanzania and the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar will be inaugurated on Nov. 5, outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete said on Monday. 

Zanzibar’s main opposition Civic United Front party has said it is confident of victory for its presidential candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad. Zanzibar, which has been a flash point in previous elections, also voted for a separate president during Sunday’s poll. 

There’s still a risk of violence breaking out there when results are announced, NKC Research analyst Francois Conradie said in an e-mailed research note on Monday. “We have enhanced security and patrols are being conducted in the town as we wait for the official declaration,” Zanzibar Commissioner of Police Hamdani Makame said by phone from the island.

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. 

Call for calm
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.

 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. 

CCM stalwarts fall
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.” 

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.

-Additional reporting by Bloomberg.

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