November 4, 2010 / 11:17 AM / 8 years ago

Kikwete leads as opposition criticises Tanzania poll

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania’s incumbent president was well ahead in the presidential vote with two-thirds of the constituencies counted, but opposition parties on Thursday criticised the elections, citing vote rigging.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete shows his finger marked with ink after casting his ballot at his home village of Msoga in Coast region, west of Dar es Salaam, October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Emmanuel Kwitema

The Civic United Front (CUF) said there had been widespread failings in the electoral process, a day after Willibrod Slaa, the presidential candidate for the Chadema party, demanded a recount of the ballots cast over the weekend.

Opposition parties and election observers accused the intelligence services of fiddling the results and complained at the release of the vote count at a snail’s pace.

Incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete so far has won 62.8 percent of the presidential vote with two-thirds of the constituencies counted, Reuters calculations showed.

Results posted for each constituency on Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) website handed Kikwete 3.28 million votes out of the 5.22 million ballots counted.

The ruling party had garnered 168 of the 239 parliamentary seats. Kikwete is seeking a second and final term at the helm of East Africa’s second largest economy.

The slow release of results triggered three days of clashes between opposition supporters and riot police in pockets of the country. There were no reports of violence on Thursday.

“The whole election process was flawed and had a lot of irregularities,” Said Miraji, CUF’s campaign manager, told Reuters.

The electoral commission admitted on Wednesday there could have been errors in the tally but these would not influence the final result and rejected calls for a recount.

On Thursday, the electoral commission stood its ground.

“These people are just stirring up fear and public mistrust. The allegations of vote rigging were made up by politicians seeking cheap popularity,” the director of elections, Rajabu Kiravu, told journalists in Dar es Salaam.

Kiravu said the NEC was concerned by low turnout in the election. Some analysts suggested it could be below 50 percent.

“It’s too conservative to say turnout won’t reach 50 percent, but it is true that fewer people turned up to vote this year, compared with previous elections,” he said.

Tanzania has enjoyed relative stability in a volatile region and has held three successive multi-party elections since 1995.

A top intelligence official rejected Slaa’s allegations that it was cooking the results in President Kikwete’s favour and said the claims were intended to stir up public anger.

“These allegations being made by Dr Slaa are false,” Jacky Mugendi Zoka, deputy director-general of the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services, told a news conference.

“NEVER A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION”

The vote is seen as a test of the dominance of Kikwete’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has struggled to tackle poverty in Africa’s fourth biggest gold producer.

Peter Mziray, candidate for the Progressive Party of Tanzania (PPT-Maendeleo), seconded Chadema’s accusations, attacking the announcement of results by the electoral commission without involving parties in the counting process.

“It is as if they were just reading a prepared speech,” Mziray told Reuters.

Under the constitution, parliamentary and local council results can be challenged in the courts but final presidential results as announced by the NEC cannot be challenged.

Independent election observers said the electoral commission and government officials openly favoured the ruling party.

“There were unnecessary delays in announcing results from some constituencies. We are also concerned by the voters’ register and want those names on the list to be verified,” Martina Kabisama, chairwoman of the Tanzania Civil Society Consortium Election Observation, told reporters.

She echoed analysts who said Tanzania needed to have an independent electoral commission to oversee general elections.

The NEC has said final results will be released on Friday at the latest and government officials told Reuters the new president likely would be sworn in on Saturday.

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