Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has won the presidential election, the National Electoral Commission said late on Friday, a contest dismissed by the opposition as a “travesty” because of widespread irregularities.
Magufuli received 12.5 million votes in Wednesday’s election – or 85 per cent – while his main challenger, Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party, got 1.9 million votes, or 13 per cent, the electoral commission said.
“The commission declares John Magufuli of CCM [Chama Cha Mapinduzi] who garnered the majority of votes as the winner in the presidential seat,” said commission chairman Semistocles Kaijage.
Magufuli had been seeking a second five-year term and promised voters he will boost the economy by completing ambitious infrastructure projects he started in his first term.
Lissu previously said he will not accept the eventual election results.
The vote “marked the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credentials”, Tanzania Elections Watch, a group of regional experts, said in an assessment released on Friday. It noted a heavy deployment of military and police whose conduct created a “climate of fear”.
“The electoral process, so far, falls way below the acceptable international standards” for holding free and fair elections, the group said.
Few international observers were allowed to watch the vote.
The US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Tibor Nagy, said on Friday “we remain deeply concerned about reports of systematic interference in the democratic process”.
“We continue to review credible allegations of the use of force against unarmed civilians,” he said in a tweet.
Magufuli’s CCM party, a version of which has held power in Tanzania since independence from Britain in 1961, had already retained power in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar with 76 percent of the vote.
Dozens of opposition party officials and members were arrested in Zanzibar on Thursday and at least one is in the hospital with severe injuries after allegations he was beaten by police, who have not commented on the incident.
The US embassy in the East African country said on Thursday there had been “credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation” in Wednesday’s vote for a president and politicians.
The election was marred by allegations of arrests of candidates and protesters, restrictions on agents of political parties to access polling stations, multiple voting, pre-ticking of ballots, and widespread blocking of social media.
Officials at the electoral commission were not immediately available for comment on allegations of irregularities.
On Wednesday, the commission denied allegations of fake ballots saying they were unofficial and unsubstantiated.
But observers say Tanzania’s reputation for democratic ideals is crumbling, with Magufuli accused of severely stifling dissenting voices in his first five-year term. Opposition political gatherings were banned in 2016, the year after he took office. Media outlets have been targeted.
Zitto Kabwe, leader of the main opposition party in Zanzibar, ACT-Wazalendo, and Chadema’s leader in parliament Freeman Mbowe were among dozens of opposition candidates who lost their seats to the ruling party.
The fear of post-election violence lingers as many Tanzanians watch in dismay.
“29 #October 2020: One of the most gloomy days in the political #history of #Tanzania,” tweeted Chambi Chachage, a lecturer in African studies at Princeton University.