DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanian police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters in the commercial capital Monday as tension rose over delays in releasing the results of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete took an early lead while Ali Mohamed Shein won the presidential vote in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar.
Voting on the palm-fringed islands off Tanzania were tainted by bloodshed and allegations of ballot rigging in 2000 and 2005.
The protesters in Dar es Salaam were angry at the outcome of a council election run alongside Sunday’s national votes that are expected to give President Jakaya Kikwete another five years at the helm of east Africa’s second largest economy.
While opinion polls show his lead narrowed as his main opponent, Willibrod Slaa, of the Chadema party campaigned hard on an anti-corruption platform, analysts predict that Kikwete’s pledge to keep fighting poverty should hand him a final term.
Members of the opposition said the delays were in areas where their candidates were likely to win parliamentary seats.
“The situation is tense ... I have received reports that police have used tear gas in Mwanza, Arusha and Dar es Salaam. People are restless because they want the results to be made public,” said Mwesiga Baregu, Chadema campaign manager.
“The situation is bad. We have reached a point where we might see bloodshed, just like what happened in Kenya when the election results were delayed.”
Violence erupted after neighbouring Kenya’s 2007 election over delays in publishing results and accusations that the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, had stolen the vote.
Shein, of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, won 50.1 percent of the vote to beat his rival, Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) who garnered 49.1 percent.
In mid-year, Zanzibar approved a constitutional amendment to have the rival parties share power by forming a coalition government after the election. “I accept the results, there is no winner and no loser, we should observe peace,” Hamad said.
In mainland Tanzania, police said they used water cannon and tear gas to scatter crowds outside a polling station in Dar es Salaam.
“Riot police were called in after crowds burnt tyres on the road and damaged at least one vehicle in the Tandika area in Dar es Salaam,” Temeke Regional Police Commander David Miseme told reporters Monday. “At least 15 people were arrested. No injuries have been reported so far.”
Tanzania’s electoral authorities said they would issue more results Tuesday after a small handful were released giving Kikwete a large early lead.
Kikwete led with 66.94 percent of the vote while Slaa garnered 17.36 percent in 10 of the 239 constituencies where results had been released.
The results covered constituencies with a combined total of less than 60,000 votes among 19.6 million registered voters.
International observers said the vote was well-organised and conducted on the whole. But the East African Community’s election observer mission to Tanzania said it was concerned by the slowness to release polling results.
“It is very slow compared to other East African countries. It is taking too long. We don’t know the reasons,” Abdul Karim Harelimana, head of the EAC election observer mission to Tanzania, told Reuters in Dar es Salaam.
A country of 40.7 million people, Tanzania is Africa’s third biggest gold producer, exports coffee and is a popular tourist destination. But, despite impressive growth rates, half of Tanzania’s population still live on less than a dollar a day.
Writing by James Macharia; editing by Mark Heinrich