November 6, 2010

Re-elected president sworn in / Electoral commissions criticised for handling of poll

President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete took oath of office, vowing to give high priority to the maintenance of national peace and cohesion. Kikwete said in a brief address that the run-up to the general election reflected discriminatory tendencies based on tribal and religious differences among the population. 'We must allow nobody a chance to disturb the peace and tranquility of this nation. We cannot survive and make progress in an environment of hostilities,' Kikwete said while thanking Tanzanians for expressing their trust in him through the polls.

Kikwete and his running mate, Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Tanzania new Vice President, were sworn in by Chief Justice Agostino Ramadhan to lead the country for the next five years - his second term. Under the country's constitution, Kikwete is barred from contesting another election at the end of this term.

Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo, Rupiah Banda of Zambia and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe were among dignitaries who attended the ceremony, held at the Uhuru Stadium.

In the meantime, controversy over the two Tanzanian electoral commissions and alleged Special Branch involvement on the side of the ruling party in the just ended general election, deepened with international observers and local political parties calling for a review of the commissions. The Civic United Front (CUF), Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) and EU election observers are calling for an official inquiry into the involvement of the Tanzania Electoral Commission, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS) in helping Chama cha Mapinduzi win the election.

The issue of the 2010 general election results threatens to engulf the two commissions, which have been criticised before for dragging its heels while investigating serious complaints. David Martin, chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission in Tanzania, said the ruling party benefited from an historical control of the administrative structure that was sometimes indistinct from the well-organised CCM party structure.

The East African Community observer team also criticised the Tanzania electoral process, saying that the polls had several flaws, including the limited time available for the distribution of election materials. In its preliminary report, it says the one-week period the NEC gave itself left little time to correct errors encountered in distribution of election materials to the voting centres.

Abdul Karim Harelimana, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly from Rwanda, said that the voters’ register was published only one week before the election, leaving no time for the voters to verify their names. “The mission noted that the one-week period was not sufficient to correct any material errors that could arise if voters failed to verify or cross-check their names on the voters’ register,” he said. According to the EAC, many voters did not find their names in the register at many voting centres in several parts of the country, and most election supervisors tended to play down the complaints.

Prof Rwekaza Mukandala, chairman of the Tanzania Election Monitoring Committee told The EastAfrican that the explanation by NEC personnel that delays were due to their lack of mastery of the new computerised counting system was not accepted by anxious voters. Prof Mukandala said many party followers suspected that fake voting papers were being used to rig the election, making them determined to remain within the vicinity of the polling station to monitor all suspicious activities. He said Regional and District Commissioners placed state resources like vehicles at the disposal of the incumbent presidential candidate. “In several places the presidential candidate in power addressed public meetings outside the legal campaign time [beyond 6pm] a practice which was then imitated by other presidential candidates, especially Dr Willibrod Slaa of Chadema,” said Prof Mukandala. There were several cases of new government decisions being announced or previously made decisions being reversed in campaign meetings, in violation of the code of ethics.

Moreover, accorfing to Dr Slaa the intelligence service was involved in manipulating the presidential votes. He said his party had uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the electronic voting systems, which he claimed were manipulated by TISS officers to give votes to CCM, raising concerns about what already looks to be one of the most divisive elections in Tanzania history. “My biggest concern is that in a very large trusted computing base, the threat of somebody with access to the development environment of the code base, particularly the vendor, basically is in a position to make the outcome of the election come out how they would like, and it’s virtually undetectable,” he said.
Chadema also expressed concerns about the potential for vendors to influence elections, especially since, he said, some TISS officers had taken active roles in operating polling stations. The Chadema candidate also alleged a plot to increase CCM candidates’ votes at the district tallying centre level. This, he alleged, was where the votes from the polling stations had been altered.

Jack Zoka, deputy director general of TISS, told The EastAfrican that the agency was not involved in the general election as claimed by Chadema but was monitoring the security of the country. (The East African)

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