The people of Tanzania voted on Wednesday to elect their new president from among 15 candidates including President John Magufuli who is eyeing a second, five-year term, reported Reuters.
Around 29 million people had been registered to vote in the elections in mainland Tanzania and the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar as compared to some 23 million voters registered in 2015. The country has a total population of about 57 million.
The opposition claimed the election was overshadowed by widespread irregularities, including ballot-box stuffing, amid a massive internet slowdown. It said observers were even turned away from scores of polling and not allowed to cover the elections while major social media networks were blocked, accessible only through virtual private networks. Also unlike in previous elections, major independent observers such as the European Union were not invited to monitor the elections.
“I am told turnout is massive,” Magufuli’s leading opponent Tundu Lissu told Reuters. “The only worry is these irregularities…We will not accept a rigged election.”
Lissu had previously survived an assassination attempt in Tanzania in 2017. He returned from exile this year to challenge Magufuli. He has called out supporters to stage protests if election results are announced on Thursday without ballots being counted properly.
“Mass democratic action will be the only option to protect the integrity of the election,” said Lissu.
ACT Wazalendo, another major opposition party, also reported deadly violence ahead of the vote. It said its polling agents witnessed ballot box-snatching by security agents, ballot box-stuffing and voters turned away by authorities who said ballots had run out.
Tanzania’s electoral commission has denied the allegations.
“There has been information circulating on social media alleging that there are ballot boxes with fake ballot papers,” Electoral Commission chairman Semistocles Kaijage told reporters in Dar es Salaam. “These allegations … are unofficial and unsubstantiated.”
The presidential and parliamentary election results are expected to be announced within a week.