Sunday, October 25, 2015 11:19 am
Tanzania’s ruling party is expected to prevail in presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday against a challenge led by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who has tapped into mounting anger over corruption and the slow pace of change.
In power for more than half a century, the ruling CCM party faces growing pressure to speed up development of Tanzania’s significant natural gas resources to spur economic growth and lower stubbornly high poverty rates.
Polls and analysts forecast a presidential victory for John Magufuli, a CCM candidate. But many expect the party’s parliamentary majority to dwindle after the opposition united behind a single candidate for the first time.
“Life is too difficult,” said 33-year-old Lowassa supporter Michael Mlay, soon after the polls opened at 0700 am local time (0400GMT) in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam. “The CCM government has failed to deliver.”
Voters seeking to cast their ballot had begun massing at some polling stations at 5 a.m., before dawn broke. High turnout was reported in several areas, and queues snaked around corners amid complaints of long delays.
“I have voted for Magufuli because I believe he will keep his promises. He is a man of integrity,” said Francis Komba, a 43-year old taxi driver who waited four hours to vote.
Some 22.75 million people are registered to vote in the East African nation of more than 47 million. Around 57 percent of registered voters are aged 35 or younger. The polls were due to close at 1300 GMT.
Lowassa, who defected from CCM in July after the party spurned him as a possible leadership candidate, said he would only concede defeat if the vote was free and fair.
“If it’s not, I won’t concede,” Lowassa told reporters after stepping off the podium at his final rally.
Any dispute over the election outcome could raise tensions in a nation which has been relatively stable since its independence in 1961.
Outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete, who will step down after serving two terms, has urged against violence.
“Anyone who tries to cause trouble will be dealt with,” Kikwete said at a CCM rally on Saturday.
Results were expected to start trickling in on Monday, and the electoral commission has said it plans to announce the winner within three days of polls closing.