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Tanzania poll: Will it be Magufuli or Lowassa?

AFRICA
By Wilfred Ayaga | October 26th 2015
A group of Kenyan youths living at the border with Tanzania at Isebania in Migori County show their Tanzanian voting cards before casting their votes. Kenyans and Tanzanians living at the border have dual citizenship. [Photo: Reuters]

Millions of Tanzanians braved the early morning cold and afternoon heat to cast their votes in one of the most important elections in the country’s history.

From early morning, there were long queues of men, women and youth in various parts of the country and in the capital, Dar es Salaam, eager to cast their ballots in an election that has been touted as too close to call.

Over 22 million people were expected to vote, in an election that has divided the country on the need for change, and loyalty to the ruling party, which has been in power for the last 51 years.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapunduzi (CCM) party candidate John Magufuli is in a tough race for the presidential seat with the Opposition’s Edward Lowassa, who is contesting under the banner of Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema).

CCM has ruled the country since independence in 1964 and Magufuli is fighting to succeed outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete as the fifth president and to extend the independence party’s reign that has seen each of the past four presidents govern for two terms of 10 years each.

But he faces stiff challenge from Lowassa, a former prime minister, who defected from CCM to join the opposition coalition as its flagbearer.

Most stations opened at 7am and closed by 5pm to pave was for tallying of the votes. Early results are expected from today.

In Dar es salaam, streets were deserted and people shut their shops to exercise their democratic right.

“I am very happy that I have been able to vote. There are a lot of things that have gone wrong with this country, including corruption. I hope that my vote is going to count so that we can have a better country,” said Esther Imbira Kimaro, a businesswoman at Kariorkor, the sprawling business suburb of the capital.

“The fortunes of this country will depend on who wins this election. Life has become very difficult, but I believe that we will get the President that we deserve. All that we are praying for is peace in our country,” said Ray Mboya, another voter as he waited to cast his vote at the same station.

Esther and Ray were among the lucky ones who found their names in the register without much problem. There ware hundreds of names pinned outside polling stations in various polling stations and people had to climb atop seats to check if their names had been included in the list. It was a cumbersome process that left the old exhausted and had to seek help from younger voters at the polling stations.

Some of the stations had been mounted by the roadside, along the main Dar es Salaam highway, and voters had to endure the afternoon heat and the choking dust from passing vehicles as they waited to mark the blue, brown and white stripped ballots.

The youth, some of who had spent Saturday evening dancing on the streets, also woke up early to cast their votes, in an election where their vote has been put at over 60 per cent.

There were earlier reports that some of the youths had been arrested by police, but these reports could not be independently confirmed.

Despite the prevailing atmosphere of calm, there were instances of missing names from the voter registers at various polling stations. One of the most affected was Zinsa Primary School, where it was reported that names of over 400 voters were missing.

Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) presidential candidate McMillan Lyimo was among those who could not find their names in the voters’ register.

Unlike the campaign period, it was not easy to distinguish between supporters of various candidates, as most people had heeded a court order banning the display of any symbols or wearing of colours indicating preference for one particular candidate.

In several polling stations in Morogoro, election officials were forced to use rubber-stamps from the 2010 elections, after those provided for this election failed to absorb ink.

The local TV station, ITV, also showed polling officials at Tanganyika Parkers polling station seated on the floor as they waited for election materials to arrive. The station had not received material by 7.30am, although there were long queues of people waiting to vote.

Tito Henry, a voter at the station, was quoted by the TV station claiming that the missing boxes were being used to commit electoral malpractices.

“We want our ballot boxes. Is it possible that the boxes that were meant for this station have been used to rig the elections?” he asked.

An observer from one of the local groups confirmed to The Standard that they had noted some of these problems and will address them properly in their reports.

There was increased police presence in the streets and polling stations. But there were no signs of trouble in most of the stations.

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