A day after 29 million Tanzanians cast their votes, preliminary results indicated that President John Magufuli was headed for a landslide victory, capturing more than 90 per cent of all parliamentary seats.
But as Chama Cha Mapinduzi supporters popped champagne in celebration, opposition leaders dismissed the electoral process as fraudulent and vowed to march in the streets to demand their stolen democratic rights.
There were early indications that Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) — perceived to be the biggest threat to CCM — had spectacularly failed to secure seats in Parliament.
But Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu did not wait for the vote tally to start before dismissing the purported win as a mockery of democracy and subversion of the people’s will.
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Yesterday morning, Lissu opened a new battlefront with Magufuli, saying that since the government had demonstrated that it was not possible to realise any democratic changes, the people had a right to use whatever means possible to reclaim their country.
Lissu said although citizens had no tanks, guns, police or bombs, they were the legitimate owners of the sovereign power and would protest the violation of their rights. The opposition leader added that it was now up to the government to decided how to deal with them.
“We cannot legitimise what happened yesterday. That was not an election according to the international best practices. This is not what is envisioned in our constitution. What we have just witnessed is not a democratic process,” Lissu told an international press conference.
Armed with sheaves of pre-marked presidential ballot papers in favour of Magufuli that were recovered from Kawe, a polling station in Dar es Salaam, Lissu said CCM had conspired with the electoral officials and the police to lock out all their poll agents.
“We will not accept the results or recognise those claiming to be elected. We urge the international community not to recognise these leaders,” he said.
His lawyers, the candidate said, had already written to the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to commence investigations with a view of charging those responsible for the killing of innocent voters in Pemba as this amounted to crimes against humanity.
Lissu said party agents had been chased away from polling centres while thousands of others were denied a chance to scrutinise and sign the requisite forms bearing the results.
“We had seen early signals that this election would not be fair. How can you have an election where opposition candidates’ agents are locked out? Since 1965, this has never happened. The rigging started with the disqualification of 30 per cent of our candidates.”
He explained that at the beginning of the electoral process, Chadema had presented over 3,900 candidates — a number that represented 91 per cent of all the available slots — but 1,250 were knocked out by the electoral commission on flimsy grounds.
Lissu added that those who were cleared to run still faced difficulties campaigning as their rallies were broken up by police. Some were also arrested, thus making it almost impossible to operate freely.
At least 35 constituencies had no Chadema candidates, Lissu said, while in one region all his candidates were knocked out in 27 locations.
He said election laws had been flouted with impunity and that tallying of parliamentary and presidential votes had started before the candidates and their agents had been notified in writing by the commission, as is stipulated by the law.
“We had been barred from engaging in politics for five years by a government that said we would have ample time during the campaigns. This did not happen. I was barred from holding rallies in some regions by being denied permission to land by aviation authorities.”
There were ugly incidents in Zanzibar as ACT Mzalendo members were dispersed by heavily armed police as they held peaceful demonstration against what they said were rigged elections. Streets emptied as residents scampered from security agents firing tear gas canisters. Injuries were reported as the police chased and beat up the protesters.
Lissu said he had written to the African Union, Southern Africa Development Community and the East Africa Commission asking them not to legitimise the election results because they did not reflect the people’s wishes.
He also called on the Commonwealth and other international agencies to ban all key government leaders under Magufuli because he had not been legitimately elected.
At the same time, a preliminary report by Tanzania Election Watch said voting was marred by massive irregularities and that the elections were conducted in a toxic environment where voters, especially women, were brutalised and sexually assaulted.
According to the report that was presented virtually by a panel of experts hosted by Terresia Mutua, the campaigns had been characterised by increased violence both in mainland Tanzania and on the Island of Pemba.
“There were increased incidences of violence in Tanzania, including sexual and gender violence. Women were stripped naked, there was hate speech, and attacks on media houses and journalists,” said panelist Miria Matebe.
Matebe noted that agents were locked out of polling centres on voting day, while a candidate was attacked in Arusha.
The panel heard that the situation was worse in Pemba where citizens aged between 27 and 33 were killed after they resisted attempts to smuggle in stuffed ballot boxes.