|19. March 2016
Zanzibar goes for a re-run of elections
Uncertainty hung over the Zanzibar election re-run set for the weekend as the main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF) maintained it would to boycott the election, terming in illegal and unconstitutional.
The election was cancelled in October over alleged irregularities and a rerun ordered, after the CUF candidate Seif Hamad Sharrif declared himself the winner. The government says security has been tightened to ensure peace prevails and people turn out to vote but CUF says some Zanzibaris have fled the Isles to Tanzania mainland, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ahead of the election out of fear of violence after the announcement of the election outcome early in the week.
Magdalena Sakaya, CUF deputy secretary-general told reporters on Thursday that people were also leaving the Isles out of fear of intimidation and said that key CUF leaders who had criticised the police for the intimidation were arrested and detained.
“The security situation is worrying and people are scared that anything could happen to them. People are leaving the Isles out of fear,” Ms Sakaya said. The departure of people together with the boycott of the election by CUF and nine other opposition parties, are expected to have major impact on the voter turnout. Zanzibar has 503,193 registered voters, according to the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Contingents of soldiers and police officers have been deployed to the Isles to maintain peace and order and most Zanzibar streets have been empty from 6pm since Monday with only security patrols to be seen.
Home Affairs Minister Charles Kitwanga met with heads of all security organs in Zanzibar late on Thursday and asked them to make sure that peace prevailed on the Isles during the election.
“I ask all the Zanzibaris to come out and vote in large numbers without fear on March 20. Our security forces are well prepared to ensure the election is held peacefully,” Mr Kitwanga said at a press conference after the meeting in Zanzibar.
Dr Alley Nassor, a senior lecturer at Zanzibar State University, said some people were complaining that their relatives who support CUF had been picked up by the police and put in custody without being charged.
Dr Nassor further said that navy ships have been bringing soldiers and police officers in broad daylight to Zanzibar, but said the majority of soldiers and police officers had been deployed to Pemba Island.
CUF’s boycott means the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi’s candidate Dr Ali Mohammed Shein is certain to win the election, but questions are being asked over how the Zanzibar Electoral Commission will validate the election and how CCM will form the government without CUF.
Section 39 of the Zanzibar Constitution stipulates that the First Vice-President of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar should come from the party that takes the second position in the presidential race.
(The East African, Nairobi)