STONETOWN, Zanzibar (Reuters) - A proposal to amend the law of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar to allow rival parties to form coalition governments was adopted by 66.4 percent of voters, official results showed on Sunday.
The referendum held on Saturday followed a gradual rapprochement between the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party -- whose 2005 election win was disputed -- and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), which gave rise to a solution based on power-sharing.
The constitution is expected to be amended in time for October’s presidential and parliamentary votes in both Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.
Officials from both parties welcomed the result of the vote in which 71.9 percent of the registered voters participated.
“This shows how determined Zanzibaris are to do away with past politics which have blocked their vision to the future. Choosing yes, they have chosen to move forward and in unison,” said Saleh Feruz, CCM deputy secretary general.
Seif Sharif Hamad, secretary general of the CUF, said they had secured the people’s backing because of the realisation that political bickering was holding back development.
The outcome was also welcomed in mainland Tanzania.
“The decision to form a government of national unity in Zanzibar was not an easy one ... Based on the outcome of elections in Zanzibar since 1995 and the suspicion and animosity that emerge after every election, it was wise to embark on this new path,” President Jakaya Kikwete said in an address to the nation.
Polls on the palm-fringed islands off Tanzania were tainted by bloodshed and allegations of vote rigging in 2000 and 2005, and three sets of reconciliation talks between the two main parties had stalled.
Kikwete has described the archipelago as the “Achilles’ heel” of an otherwise peaceful country of 40 million people.