23 January 2016

Tanzania: Zanzibar to Hold Poll Rerun in March

Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha has announced the date for a rerun of Zanzibar election as March 20 despite resistance from the main opposition Civic United Front, which insists that it will boycott such a poll.

Mr Jecha said the decision was reached by ZEC in its meeting on January 21.

"I call on leaders of political parties and the general public to continue to observe peace during this preparation time, on the voting day, during tallying and on the day a winner will be declared," said Mr Jecha in a televised announcement.

This comes after the embattled electoral chief had annulled the October 25, 2015 election results, of which CUF's five-time presidential candidate, Self Sharif Hamad had unilaterally declared himself winner.

The row over election annulment between the ruling CCM and CUF led to mediation talks, that, however collapsed due to misunderstandings between the two partiess.

While the ruling party was insisting on a rerun saying the October election was full of irregularities, CUF insisted that a winner be declared.

Seif Ali Idd, Zanzibar's Second Vice President, said the government had already set aside $3.4 million (Tsh7.5 billion) for the rerun and pleaded with people to focus on national development rather than the politics of speculation.

The announcement by the electoral commission boss has ended long speculation on the date for the rerun.

The mediation talks, which involved the CCM, Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, former Tanzania mainland president Jakaya Kikwete, former Zanzibar president Amani Abeid Karume, CUF secretary general, Seif Sharif Hamad and former Tanzanian President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, broke down after Mr Hamad, who is also First Vice President under the coalition government, dissociated himself from the talks.

Ismail Jussa, CUF deputy spokesperson was not available for comment by the time we went to press but he had told The East- African earlier that his party supporters should ignore any government announcement fof fresh polls, saying it was improbable for such a decision to be made before the outcome of the ongoing talks was announced.

The announcement means that the international community's efforts to get the government of Zanzibar to announce the October 25 2015 poll result have proved futile.

The US has suspended aid to Tanzania to put pressure on the government to find a solution to the Zanzibar dispute.

The board of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) met on December 16 and said it had "deferred" Tanzania's eligibility for MCC funding pending resolution of ongoing governance concerns in Zanzibar and the cybercrime law.

Tanzania has lost nearly TSsh1 trillion ($472 million) in development funding from the US in 2016, a considerable blow to the government, which planned to use the funds for electricity supply projects.

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