Diplomats condemn Z’bar vote rerun

30Jan 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Diplomats condemn Z’bar vote rerun

Diplomats in Tanzania yesterday criticised a planned election rerun on Zanzibar, urging a ‘peaceful outcome’ and warning of ‘intimidation and tensions’ amid an opposition boycott.

Maalim Seif Hamad (l) with President Mohamed Ali Shein (r)

Last year's election in the semi-autonomous islands were scrapped, but diplomats from 15 nations expressed concern that the Zanzibar Electoral Commission had annulled the vote "without having provided evidence to substantiate its claim that irregularities had taken place."
"We are deeply concerned that the unilateral declaration of a rerun may lead to an escalation of intimidation and tensions," said the statement signed by ambassadors in Tanzania, including European Union and United States envoys.
The October 25 elections, which were held across the country, were scrapped in Zanzibar after the islands' electoral commission reported "violations of electoral law," claims which were dismissed by the opposition.
Zanzibar has experienced sectarian and political tensions in recent years - including recent grenade explosions - with the unrest affecting the islands' key tourist industry.
Other countries whose envoys signed the statement were Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
"We regret that an election rerun was announced, while a dialogue between the arties was still ongoing," the statement read in part.
"For the benefit of all Tanzanians, we reaffirm our belief that the current political impasse in Zanzibar would be best addressed through a mutually acceptable and negotiated solution," it added.
The annulment came after opposition Civic United Front (CUF) candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, declared himself the winner before the results were officially announced. Zanzibar's electoral commission announced last week that fresh polls would be held on March 20 and CUF have since said it would boycott the vote.
Zanzibar's 500,000 registered voters also cast ballots for Tanzania's national president, and despite the cancellation of the vote on the islands, new Tanzanian President John Magufuli was sworn into office last year.
The diplomats called on Magufuli to "pursue his previous calls for a negotiated solution between parties so as to ensure a peaceful outcome."
Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shien of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) - the same party as Magufuli - remains in power until the fresh polls are held.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the newly-appointed European Union Head of Delegation to Tanzania, Ambassador Roeland van de Geer, told a media stakeholders’ luncheon that the EU was following closely developments in Zanzibar.
“Our observer mission did not conclude its work because the final results were not released,” said Ambassador van de Geer before the Zanzibar main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), had declared its stand, while responding to stakeholders’ questions about the EU position on the isles rerun election.
He called on President John Magufuli to get more involved in finding a solution to the troubled semi-autonomous islands’ political antagonism, saying the EU believed that the union government had the responsibility to resolve the stalemate.
Ambassador van de Geer pointed out that in their preliminary report after voting, the EU observer mission had said that the poll was conducted in a peaceful and transparent manner.
“The EU observers and others said that voting day went on well and urged the conclusion of the election,” he said when referring to the October 25, 2015 general elections.
Meanwhile, however, CUF has announced that it would boycott the election, a move which, if effected, would pave the way to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) easy win against a dozen other less popular opposition parties which have expressed willingness to participate in the rerun poll.
Asked what the EU’s position was regarding CUF’s boycott of the election, Ambassador van de Geer would not be drawn into stating categorically what would finally be the 28-member bloc’s position, amidst growing concern by local activists that Brussels was not as vocal as the US was in denouncing the poll cancellation in the isles.
Ambassador Roeland van de Geer stressed that the EU was not in the business of lecturing Tanzania about what should be or should not be done, but expected the country to maintain its good international image by solving the stalemate in Zanzibar amicably.
“Tanzania has gone past this challenge in the past. We just hope that the government will also resolve this one,” noted the envoy, who served in Mozambique as Dutch ambassador between 1994 and 1998 and saw after he left a political conflict deepening further.
CUF has said that it would boycott the rerun election because it believes that the Zanzibar Electoral Commission illegally annulled the October 25 general election results, which it says it handsomely won.
“We will not take part in the rerun election because ZEC did not act fairly by annulling the first election. Besides, we don’t think the commission is qualified to supervise the rerun election,” said CUF Secretary General Seif Shariff Hamad, who was the CUF presidential candidate in the annulled poll.
Hamad is also the isles Government of National Unity First Vice-President following the 2010 election results and constitutional changes aimed at ending the ever-widening political divide between the main island of Unguja, which is a CCM stronghold, and Pemba, which is a CUF stronghold.

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