Magufuli and the ruling CCM headed for victory in Tanzania

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Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli; Courtesy Photo

Tanzanian President, John Pombe Magufuli and his ruling party (CCM) are headed for a landslide victory in presidential and parliamentary elections which the opposition has rejected, citing electoral fraud.

By Friday, Magufuli had the majority of votes with results from 60 percent of 264 constituencies so far in the presidential election while his CCM had won all but two of around 200 parliamentary seats announced.

The near certain victory will further cement the power of a party which has been in power since independence in 1961 and stands accused of a worrying slide into autocracy under which Magufuli has cracked down on the opposition and free speech.

On Thursday, Magufuli’s main challenger, the Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu declared the results as “illegitimate” and urged his supporters to demonstrate peacefully. Lissu also asked the international community not to recognize the outcome.

“Whatever happened yesterday was not an election, and thus we do not recognize it. We do not accept the result,” Lissu told reporters in Dar es Salaam, saying opposition election monitors had been barred from entering polling stations and faced other interference.

“What is being presented to the world is a complete fraud. It is not an election.”

The result of presidential elections cannot be contested in Tanzania, though the parliamentary outcome can be challenged.

Lissu, 52, returned to Tanzania in July after three years abroad recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in what he believes was a politically-motivated assassination attempt.

His return reinvigorated an opposition demoralized by years of attacks, arrests and a ban on political rallies, with massive crowds seen throughout his campaign.

However several opposition MPs lost seats in long-held bastions, such as Chadema chairman and lawmaker Freeman Mbowe of Hai in the Kilimanjaro region, and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Halima Mdee, head of the Chadema woman’s wing, who was briefly arrested on election day after protesting the discovery of ballot boxes stuffed with “pre-marked votes”, lost her seat in Kawe in Dar es Salaam.

A statement from the US embassy said “irregularities and the overwhelming margins of victory raise serious doubts about the credibility of the results” and the government’s “commitment to democratic values”.

The election took place with little monitoring from foreign observers and most international media were unable to gain accreditation to cover voting on the mainland.

Major social media networks remained blocked Friday, accessible only through virtual private networks (VPN).

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