Tanzania opposition rejects presidential election result, wants new vote

·2-min read
Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and First Lady Janeth stand in the queue before casting their ballots at a polling centre during the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Chamwino district in Dodoma
Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and First Lady Janeth stand in the queue before casting their ballots at a polling centre during the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Chamwino district in Dodoma

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania's two leading opposition parties said on Saturday they would not recognise the results of a presidential election that handed incumbent John Magufuli a second five-year term.

On Friday, Tanzania's National Electoral Commission declared Magufuli the winner of Wednesday's poll, with 84% of the vote against 13% for his opponent, Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously in mainland Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean archipelago.

"We are calling on the international community and bodies not to recognise what was referred to as a general election, and we call on them to take appropriate action," Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe said in comments posted on the party's Twitter account.

"We demand fresh elections as soon as possible."

Mbowe, who led the opposition in parliament, lost his long-held seat in the vote and urged opposition supporters to demonstrate on Monday against the handling of the election, which Lissu has called a "travesty".

Zitto Kabwe, the leader of another major opposition party, ACT-Wazalendo, was among dozens of opposition candidates who lost their seats in parliament to the ruling CCM party. ACT-Wazalendo on Saturday joined the calls for protests against the result.

In a video tweeted by police, senior police official Liberatus Sabas said "illegal assemblies and demonstrations" would not be permitted.

In Zanzibar, 33 people were detained over alleged election-related offences, police commissioner, Mohammed Haji Hassan, said.

In his bid for a second term, Magufuli promised to boost the economy by completing infrastructure projects started in his first term, such as a hydro-electric dam, a railway line and new planes for the national carrier.

But the opposition and rights groups have complained that his administration has cracked down on critical voices, closing down media outlets and preventing opposition rallies.

The main challenger, Lissu, was shot 16 times in 2017 in what remains an unsolved case.

The government has denied stifling dissent.

The United States has said it was concerned about "reports of systematic interference in the democratic process" during the election.

The vote was marred by allegations of irregularities, including the use of force against unarmed civilians, pre-ticking of ballots, the detention of opposition officials and restrictions on political party agents accessing polling stations, the U.S. Embassy said.

But in a preliminary statement, the East African Community's Election Observer Mission said that the electoral commission had "organised the elections in a professional manner".

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Ros Russell)