Tanzania: Eyes Turn to Zanzibar as Election Nears

Poll agents check their names on lists posted at the Ubungo Ward Office in Kinondoni District (file photo).

As Tanzania prepares for a general election this year, Zanzibar, a hotbed of opposition politics, seems to be receiving attention from both development partners and the government in Dar es Salaam.

Last week, President John Magufuli held a closed-door meeting with three Zanzibari opposition leaders--five-time presidential contestant Seif Shariff Hamad, Ibrahim Lipumba and James Mbatia, the latter two being leaders of Civic United Front (CUF) and NCCR-Mageuzi respectively. The agenda of the meeting was not made public.

Mr Hamad ran for president on a CUF ticket in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2015 before crossing over to ACT-Wazalendo last year when he parted ways with Prof Lipumba.

Speaking to The EastAfrican in an interview, the European Union ambassador to Tanzania, Manfredo Fanti, said he was planning to visit the isles for discussions with the Zanzibari authorities and chairman of the Zanzibar Election Commission on election preparations.

Mr Fanti said the EU is keen on seeing a credible election in Zanzibar after President Magufuli's pledge to the diplomatic community that October election will be free and fair.

Recently, the US charge d'affaires in Tanzania Inmi Paterson held talks with Mr Hamad to discuss what was going on in the Isles. Mr Hamad has said he will run for president for the sixth time this year, probably with the ACT-Wazalendo party.

"It is always a pleasure to meet with key democratic stakeholders and hear what is happening in Zanzibar," she tweeted later, and posted a picture of herself and Mr Hamad.

Mr Hamad also tweeted the same picture saying he felt honoured to host Dr Paterson at his Zanzibar residence.

In 2015, the EU sidelined the Zanzibari government over the annulment of the election.

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