Tanzania: Voting Comes to a Close in Tight Presidential Race

Although the majority of Tanzanians supported this draft, the ruling party ultimately modified the draft to maintain the status quo federal structure and has delayed the constitutional referendum until after the elections.

Tanzania’s elections would be the third presidential election in Africa this month, which political analysts described as “Red October in Africa”.

The National Electoral Commission disqualified four candidates- Mchungaji Mtikila, Godfrey Malisa, John Lafichipaka and Omari Sombi- after they failed to meet the minimum threshold to qualify for the presidential race.

In May this year, Ukawa agreed to nominate one common candidate to run in the upcoming election, and in August, Edward Lowassa was presented as the Ukawa presidential candidate.

A few of the major issues for the nearly 23 million registered voters include access to clean water, improved health care and better education.

President Jakaya Kikwete, who is standing down after two terms, has called for peace ahead of the election.

Although there had been eight Union presidential aspirants, the real battle had pitted Dr John Pombe Magufuli of the ruling CCM and Mr Edward Ngoyai Lowassa of Chadema, representing UKAWA.

They will choose a new president and members of parliament on mainland Tanzania and the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago.

Opinion polls suggest that CCM is set to win the presidency. He has drawn thousands to rallies as the main opposition parties have united behind one candidate for the first time. “We’ve been exhausted for a very long time of the ruling party”, Joram Murawa, a businessman, said before polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT).

The winning candidate will have to obtain more than 50 percent of all the votes cast otherwise a runoff will be held within 60 days. There have been accusations of fraud in past polls but presidents have stepped down at the end of their tenure and ethnic tensions over elections are virtually unheard of in the country of more than 100 ethnic groups.

Police vans equipped with teargas equipment and uniformed anti-riot police patrolled the Dar es Salaam streets, while hundreds of people, mostly youths believed to be members of the opposition parties were arrested by the police for interrogations. Lowassa once topped CHADEMA’s “List of Shame” for corruption, including the “Richmond Scandal” that prompted him to resign as Prime Minister in 2008. This ensures the opposition vote will be unified and not split between several opposition candidates, as it had often been in the past.

Despite the absence of tribalism in the nation’s political history, the country is in search of a lost leader, Julius Nyerere, whose 24-year leadership left profound impact in the political culture of Tanzania.

The campaign environment is Tanzania has been largely peaceful but political observers said the potential for violence remains.

After 54 years of the CCM, much of Tanzania’s electorate is looking for a break from the past. “I’m voting for Lowassa because his policies give Tanzanians hope”.

“The local and regional authorities who we are going to elect will have a huge responsibility”, President Juan Manuel Santos said, encouraging Colombians to vote.

After casting his ballot at a primary school in Bungi, about 15 miles (24km) south of Zanzibar City, Shein said: “I am confident of victory, and ready to serve Zanzibaris for the second term”.