Zanzibar opposition leader says elections are not free and fair
publiziert: Sonntag, 29. Okt 2000 / 17:27 Uhr

Zanzibar - Zanzibar's second multiparty elections were thrown into turmoil Sunday after thousands of voters waited for more than seven hours under a searing sun for ballots to arrive. The main opposition leader denounced the poll as chaotic and accused electoral officials of sabotaging the hotly contested vote for president and parliament by delivering ballots first to ruling party strongholds, and then much later to opposition areas leaving little time for everyone to finish voting before the polls close

"This is not a free and fair election," said Seif Sharif Hamad, leader of the opposition Civic United Front, just before he voted 4 1/2 hours after the polls opened. "This is chaos." Polling officers in some districts said they had not received enough ballot papers or had been given the wrong registration lists.

CUF protested to the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and met Sunday afternoon to decide what to do next. The party had warned before the vote that it would protest in force if there were any irregularities, but there were no reports of violence or demonstrations.

One million people live in the Zanzibar archipelago. Consisting of Unguja and Pemba islands, it is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. In addition to voting for regional president, 50 members of Zanzibar's House of Representatives and local officials, Zanzibaris also cast ballots for the president of Tanzania and representatives to the National Assembly.

Zanzibar Electoral Commission spokesman Idriss Haji Jecha acknowledged problems in Zanzibar town where most of the 446,759 registered voters live, and in the densely populated western district, just north of town. But he said voting in rural areas was going smoothly.

CUF is strongest in urban areas, while the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi is strongest outside the town. The elections are straight fight between the two parties.

People who were in line when the polls were to close at 5 p.m. (1400gmt) were allowed to cast their ballots in the dimly lit polling stations.

Turnout appeared to be high, and separate lines of men and women snaked for hundreds of meters (yards). Several people collapsed from heat exhaustion at one polling station where 7,000 people waited for seven hours before voting began.

The confusion raised fears of a repeat of Zanzibar's controversial first multiparty elections in 1995 which were dogged by allegations of vote-rigging. That close vote was considered fundamentally flawed by international observers, and donors consequently cut off aid to Zanzibar.

Foreign election monitors observing this election said it was clear that CUF areas were the most affected by the lack of ballots. CUF officials complained of problems during voter registration and of police harassment throughout the campaign. Government and CCM officials denied any wrongdoing.

CCM official Hassan Mitwai said the problems were not limited to CUF strongholds and said his party had asked for polls to remain open to accommodate voters.

CCM presidential candidate Amani Karume waited an hour before voting. "I only stand in line (to vote) once in five years, so I'm not tired of waiting," Karume said. In mainland Tanzania 34 kilometers (22 miles) to the east, voting proceeded smoothly. The CCM dominates the political landscape there, and President Benjamin Mkapa was expected to win re-election by a landslide.

After a violent revolt against the Omani sultan in 1964, Zanzibar united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania. The nation's first president, Julius Nyerere, formed a socialist one-party state. Sunday's elections were the first since his death a year ago. CCM has held power on both the mainland and Zanzibar since the union was formed. There were no reports or allegations of problems on the mainland where some 10 million of the 32 million population had registered. to vote.

(AP)

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