October 31, 2010 / 8:15 AM / 8 years ago

President expected returned in Tanzanian vote

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanians voted peacefully in a presidential election on Sunday that is expected to give President Jakaya Kikwete another five-year term in east Africa’s second largest economy.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete attends a ceremony to mark the arrival of endangered east African black rhinoceroses from South Africa at Seronera airstrip in Serengeti park, May 21, 2010, as the start of an initiative that will see 32 of the huge beasts flown to Tanzania from South Africa. An explosion in poaching in the 1960 and 70s saw the population of east African black rhinos in Tanzania plummet from over 1,000 to just 70. Seven of the remaining rhinos were relocated to South Africa in an effort to protect them and bring the rhino sub-species back from the brink of extinction. Picture taken May 21, 2010. REUTERS/Tom Kirkwood

International observers said the poll was well-organised and well-conducted on the whole, though there were reports of some voters not being able to find their names on electoral lists and some polling stations opening late due to lack of materials.

Tanzanian election officials said voting was suspended in at least seven parliamentary constituencies and 21 council wards due to various irregularities. Voting was extended beyond the 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) deadline for those still waiting in queues.

A country of 40.7 million people, Tanzania is Africa’s third biggest gold producer, exports coffee and is a popular tourist destination, but despite impressive growth rates half of the population still live on less than a dollar a day.

“The biggest problem we’ve had has been in Pemba where in four polling stations there was not sufficient material. That now, we think, has been resolved but it did create unnecessary tensions,” the EU’s chief observer David Martin told reporters.

“In the south of the country, it appears one member of the family was voting for the whole household, which is not acceptable. Apart from those two issues, the actual conduct of polling day seems okay,” he said.

According to television images, there were long lines at many of the 52,000 polling stations throughout Tanzania and the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar, which was also electing a new president on Sunday. Police were out in force.

No official turnout figures have been released yet but anecdotal evidence suggested many younger voters who have spurned elections in the past cast their ballots this time, a trend analysts say could help the main opposition candidate.

“LIFE MUST GO ON”

Kikwete, 60, from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, was elected with 80 percent of the vote in 2005 and has overseen steady economic growth while in office. Tanzania is expected to grow by more than 6 percent this year and next.

While opinion polls show his lead narrowed as his main opponent Willibrod Slaa of the Chadema party campaigned hard on an anti-corruption platform, analysts predict Kikwete’s pledge to keep fighting poverty should hand him a final term.

While few expected much trouble on Sunday, the main test of Tanzania’s democracy will be whether the results are accepted by losing candidates when a clear picture emerges in a few days.

Slaa, a 62-year-old former priest and anti-graft campaigner, said he also remained confident of winning.

“If all the procedures were followed and the election was free and fair, we will accept the results,” Slaa said. “I have received reports from across Tanzania on various flaws.”

CORRUPTION CONCERN

Kikwete’s first term also has been dogged by several high-level corruption scandals and critics accuse him of not doing enough to stamp out graft or improve basic services.

Concern over corruption and weak governance have prompted donors to give less development support to Tanzania than they had pledged for the past few years.

In 2010, Tanzania ranked 116 out of 178 countries in an index of the most corrupt nations compiled by watchdog Transparency International, down from 88 when Kikwete came to power in 2005.

Analysts say Chadema had been gaining support among young first-time voters but that turnout would need to be very high for Slaa to stand any chance of upsetting the status quo.

He has pledged to review all major mining contracts if elected amid complaints that the government is not earning enough in tax and royalties from its mineral resources.

Voters also queued peacefully in Zanzibar, which enjoys a degree of autonomy from Tanzania.

Presidential elections in Zanzibar in 2000 and 2005 were marred by violence, but the ruling CCM and rival Civic United Front party have since agreed to share power.

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