We’ll go to polls with or without observers, says Zanzibar

10Mar 2016
David Kisanga
The Guardian
We’ll go to polls with or without observers, says Zanzibar
  • The main opposition CUF party has boycotted fresh elections scheduled for March 20

THE Zanzibar government has stressed that the general election rerun scheduled for Sunday next week (March 20) will go ahead whether international observer teams are present or not.

ZEC chairman Jecha Salum Jecha

The Minister of State (Second Vice-President’s Office), Mohammed Aboud, told reporters here yesterday that the Isles government had no time to try to convince the international community to recognize or monitor the polls rerun.

Observer teams which participated in the original election last October were generally disapproving of its abrupt nullification by Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha, and ZEC has since been under increasing internal and external pressure to complete the process of tabulating results from that election rather than stage a rerun.

But according to Aboud, Zanzibar has its own laws and regulations for conducting elections which give ZEC the mandate to oversee the whole process without interference.

The minister categorically told the outside world not to “interfere in our country’s internal affairs.”

International observer teams which were against the nullification of the original election included those from the Commonwealth (headed by Nigeria’s ex-president Goodluck Jonathan), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, the European Union, and the East African Community (EAC).

According to Minister Aboud, it is up to these organizations to decide whether or not to participate in the election rerun by sending new observer delegations.

He sought to assure Zanzibaris that preparations for the re-run were almost complete, with ZEC working in collaboration with the Isles Ministry of Finance to acquire all the necessary tools needed for the process.

A letter made available to the media yesterday showed that ZEC was expecting to receive the ballot papers on Friday.

While calling on islanders to turn out in large numbers and “vote for their leaders of choice” on March 20, Aboud strongly cautioned all political parties and individual elements against trying to disrupt the process and discourage anyone from casting their vote.

No party will be forced to participate in the polls re-run, but “security organs will execute their work as usual to allow people to vote without fear and ensure peace and harmony prevails before, during and after the election,” he said.

On the health of opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party secretary general and incumbent Zanzibar First Vice-President, Seif Sharif Hamad, the minister said there was no cause for worry as Hamad “is currently doing well”.

Hamad was on Monday admitted to the Hindu Mandal private hospital in Dar es Salaam after suddenly falling sick. Aboud said the Isles government was aware of Hamad’s illness and was wishing him quick recovery.