Ruling party’s John Magufuli takes early lead in Tanzania poll

John Pombe Magufuli

Dar Es Salaam: Tanzania's ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM)'s presidential candidate John Pombe Magufuli has taken an early lead in the country's general election, amid protests from the opposition that there are plans to intimidate its supporters.

Results released by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) showed Magufuli leading with 150,000 votes against his main rival Edward Lowassa who had 82,826 even as election observers raised concern over the slow pace of release of results.

The results were from 13 of the country's' 239 constituencies, and do not show any projection of how the closely fought election will go.

"We are only announcing the results as they come in," said the chairperson of the commission, Mr Damian Lubuva.

"Under the constitution, it is the only the commission that can announce the results. Citizens are requested to be patient until we get the results. You can get unofficial results from other avenues but these are not credible," he added.

But the the slow pace in releasing the result is already causing anxiety within the opposition, with Lowassa claiming that that the manner of the results announcement points to a sinister motive by the electoral body.

The Opposition has protested that the body had announced results from CCM's strongholds to give an impression that the ruling party is set to win the poll.

Lowassa was also up in arms after reports emerged that police had destroyed a tallying centre run by the opposition in the outskirts of the city.

On Sunday, night police invaded the tallying centre located in the centre of Dar es Salaam and arrested several people. Credible reports indicate that the centre was being manned by a famous Kenyan blogger, who arrived in the country several weeks ago.

"The Government is using tactics of intimidation against the opposition. The ruling party has been running similar centres without any interference," said Lowassa during a press conference in the capital.

The ruling party, through its National executive committee member January Makamaba however addressed another press conference where he asked the Opposition to let the elections body do its work.

He also distanced the ruling party form the destruction of the tallying centre.

"We are not aware of any tallying centre being destroyed. In our estimation, there is nothing to suggest that these elections have not been free and fair," said Makamba in the capital.

Among the results released yesterday are those from the Pemba island, where the ruling party candidate appeared to have taken a commanding lead.

In Nsibo constituency, Magufuli garnered 31,413, against Lowassa's 4,229.

Magufuli was also leading in some constituencies in the port town of Tanga and Mtwara.

In Pwani constituency, with a registered voter population of 90,000, Magufuli garnered 34,604, against his opponent's 25,444 votes.

Lowassa led in Chambali (5,519), Kiwani (4,229) and Mtambili (5,875).

At the national tallying centre at the Julius Nyerere Convention Centre, observers and journalist waited patiently for the announcement of the results from different constituencies.

Outside the venue, police in armoured vehicles stood on high alert, and no one without accreditation was allowed within 500 metres of the building.

In the Zanzibar archipelago, opposition candidate Maalim Seif Sheriff Hamad declared himself winner of the presidential race, violating a directive by the electoral body that political parties and candidates refrain from declaring results.

Hamad addressed the press in Zanzibar and said that he had won the election by a margin of 52 per cent against his main opponent, CCM's Dr Ali Mohammed Shein.

There were reports of riots in the archipelago, as Opposition supporters demanded the release of the results.

The streets of Dar Es Salaam, however, remained calm as people stayed at home to watch the release of the results on television.

Groups of people also gathered to follow the results on transistor radios and mobile phones.

Former Kenya Vice-President Moody Awori, who is leading the East Africa Community (EAC) observer mission, was non-committal on the process so far, only telling The Standard that the observations of the election monitors will be included in the final report.

Another observer from the Tanzanian Social Services Commission, Mr Andrew Swai, said that the election monitors had noted some of the shortcomings especially the delay in the announcement of the results.

Results are expected from over 360 constituencies where competition between candidates of the two leading parties is expected to be stiff.