DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzania's Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has extended its 51-year reign after the ruling party's presidential candidate John Pombe Magufuli was declared the East Africa nation's President-elect.
Results from the country's 264 constituencies Thursday showed Magufuli had floored his closest challenger, Edward Lowassa of Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) by a margin of over 2 million votes.
Magufuli garnered 8,882,935 votes- 58.56 percent of the vote- against Lowassa's 6,072,848 votes (39.9 percent) in results declared by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The elections body declared the results at Dar Es Salaam International convention Centre yesterday under a cloud of controversy, with Lowassa protesting that the credibility of the election was in doubt.
"In line with Article 41 (6) of the constitution which gives the commission power to declare as winner the presidential candidate with the highest number of votes, I hereby declare John Pombe Magufuli as the winner of this election," said the chair of the commission, Damian Lubuva.
Magufuli, 54, will succeed President Jakaya Kikwete as the country's fifth president.
Other candidates were: Anna Elisha Mgwhira (67,763 votes), Chie Lutalosa Yemba (66,0049 votes), Hashim Rungwe Spunda (38), Kasambala Jansen Malik (8,028 votes), Lyimo MacMillan Elifatio (8,198) and Dovutwa Fahmi Nasoro (7,785 votes).
The results of the polls were collated within a period of five days, during which observers, journalists and ordinary and ordinary Tanzanians were kept waiting.
Magufuli maintained a consistent lead over the five day announcement period, obliterating his opponent in constituencies across the country, even eating into areas that were initially thought to be opposition strongholds.
It was a blow to the opposition which had hoped to turn the tables on the ruling party that has been in power for over five decades. The opposition had contested under the banner of Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA) coalition, a conglomeration of four political parties.
Magufuli is set to receive his certificate from the NEC this morning, ending a two month grueling campaign that saw him exchange political barbs with his opponent.
Early in the morning, Lowasssa's running mate, Mr Juma Duni Haji arrived at the tallying centre with a petition to protest the results. It happened hours before Lowassa gave a press conference, about 20 kilometres away from the city centre.
But Dar es Salaam is a city on edge. There is an evident degree of alertness among security forces looking out for any signs of trouble. Along the main road leading from the centre of the city to the suburbs, police vehicles drove slowly, as groups of youth sitting by the roadside silently watched.
Only this week, there was an alert after police discovered what they said was a bomb near Ubungo, a few kilometers from the city centre. At Temeke, angry opposition supporters burnt down a polling station after they protested the outcome of parliamentary results.
In public transport, supporters of the opposition have also been dismissing the outcome of the election,
"We are only waiting for our leader to tell us the way forward. We came out in large numbers and I can tell you that this vote was tampered with. There was tampering between the time the results were sent from the polling station to the time the commission announced the results at the national tallying centre," claimed Juma Mrisho an opposition supporter.
But among Magufuli's supporters, the champagne bottles are already open, with signs of celebrations in the capital Dar es Salaam.
"Lowassa's supporters thought that elections in Tanzania end in Dar Es Salaam. In rural areas, nobody has ever heard of Ukawa. Let the losers accept the result," said a ruling party supporter on the streets as he waved the green flag of the ruling party.
Magufuli is a former chemistry teachers and a party stalwart who has held various positions in successive CCM governments. He will take over the reins of power from current President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete who has served for two terms.
Magufuli's nomination as the CCM flag bearer was however littered with intrigue, after Lowassa, who was widely expected to clinch the ticket lost out, leading to his defection to the opposition.
Professor Honest Ngowe of Mzumbe University in Dar es Salaam Salaam told the Standard that what Tanzania needs is a transformative President that will put in place effective policies for the people.
"We want president who will help people change their lives. The mistake we normally make is to wait for the president to come and change our lives," said the Professor of Economics.
Magufuli who is said to be a close friend to Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) leader Raila Odinga will be the East African country's fifth president. He will join the club of his predecessors, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Omar Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa, and Jakaya Kikwete.
The announcement of the results came even as the United States government waded into the drama that has been the Tanzanian, asking the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) to reconsider its decision to nullify the polls in the semi –autonomous region.
A statement issued in Dar s Salaam said that the decision had disrupted a process that was largely orderly and credible.
"This action led an orderly and peaceful election, as evaluated by observer missions from the US Embassy, European Union, Commonwealth and Southern African Development Community (Saddc), and a tabulation process nearing completion," the US said.
There was anger on the streets of Dar es Salaam among opposition supporters as the results came in. People gathered around taxis that had their radios switched on in high volumes to follow the announcement happening just a few kilometers away.