Tanzania’s main opposition presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu on Thursday declared he would not recognise the election result as key seats fell to the governing party in a vote he said was marred by irregularities.
Counting was taking place across Tanzania and its semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar – which also elects its own president and legislators – where early results showed the opposition losing seats in some traditional strongholds.
President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term, has the lead in more than a dozen constituency results announced by the Tanzania election commission.
His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has been in power since independence in 1961, but rights groups have decried a slide into “autocracy” over the past five years marked by the repression of the opposition.
Magufuli’s main challenger, the Chadema party candidate Tundu Lissu, declared the results trickling through “illegitimate” and urged his supporters to demonstrate peacefully while asking the international community not to recognise the outcome.
“Whatever happened yesterday was not an election, and thus we do not recognise it. We do not accept the result,” Lissu told reporters in Dar es Salaam, saying opposition election monitors had been barred from entering polling stations and faced other interference.
“What is being presented to the world is a complete fraud. It is not an election.”
The process was like “spitting in the face of democracy”, said Lissu, appearing to warn of unrest.
“Those in power are telling Tanzanians, ‘If you want change, look for it another way, not through the ballot box,’” he told reporters. “The message they are sending is, ‘Use force if you can We won’t let you win through democracy.’”
He added, however, unlike the government, “we do not have the instruments of violence”.
Many across Africa have watched in dismay at what they have described as Tanzania’s abandonment of its long reputation of democratic ideals under the populist Magufuli.
The results of presidential elections cannot be contested in Tanzania, though the parliamentary outcome can be challenged.
Lissu, 52, returned to Tanzania in July after three years abroad recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in what he believes was a politically motivated assassination attempt.