Tanzanians held a peaceful election that will probably hand President Jakaya Kikwete a second and final five-year term to implement policies aimed at strengthening East Africa’s second-biggest economy.
Kikwete, the candidate of the Chama cha Mapinduzi party, has the support of about 71.2 percent of voters, according to an opinion poll conducted by the University of Dar es Salaam this month. The 60-year-old leader is trailed by five other candidates, including Wilbrod Slaa of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo party, his closest challenger.
An economist who served for a decade as foreign minister prior to taking office in 2005, Kikwete’s policies have helped generate average annual growth of 6.7 percent, according to International Monetary Fund data.
Kikwete has scored lower marks in the war against graft, a key platform in his 2005 campaign. Tanzania’s ranking slipped to 116th from 93rd on an index of the world’s most corrupt countries compiled by Berlin-based Transparency International.
“Life was hard five years ago, and it still is today,” Duiko Juma, 42, a worker on a ship transporting cement, he said as he waited in line at a voting station in Dar es Salaam. “I want change for development: safe water, good jobs, hospitals. I don’t know if any candidate would deliver on that.”
Several reports of names being excluded from the voters’ lists inside polling stations and delays are nothing to be worried about, Paul East, former attorney general of New Zealand and head of the Commonwealth observation team, said today.
The vote was “peaceful and orderly,” said East from the coastal town of Bagamoyo, north of Dar es Salaam.
Initial reports indicate voter turnout may have been as low as 40 percent, David Martin, chief observer for the European Union’s vote-monitoring mission to Tanzania, said in an interview in Dar es Salaam. About three cases of ballot-stuffing were exposed, Martin said.
The northern town of Arusha and the area east of Lake Victoria, where candidates and their supporters have been running negative campaigns, are potential “hotspots” in the period waiting for results and afterward, Martin said.
“We hope people will respect the results but that is hard to predict,” he said.
During his five-year term, Kikwete increased spending on roads and energy projects, using higher tax revenue and donor funding, while keeping government borrowing in check. Kikwete has pledged to maintain fiscal policies that are expected to drive the economic growth rate to 6.5 percent this year and 6.7 percent in 2011, the IMF said on Oct. 6. That compares with average growth rates of 5 percent and 5.5 percent expected in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in the same periods.
Failure on Graft
Critics say Kikwete’s record on tackling corruption has been sullied by a failure to prosecute graft cases.
In January 2008, Kikwete fired Central Bank Governor Daudi Ballali following an irregular-payments scandal over which Prime Minister Edward Lowassa resigned. In a separate incident that year, Andrew Chenge stepped down as infrastructure development minister after being investigated in a bribery probe involving BAE Systems Plc. Ballali died in May 2008 and no government ministers were prosecuted in either of the cases.
Donors to Tanzania announced in May they planned to cut their pledges in the 2010-11 fiscal year by about $220 million to $534 million.
Tanzania is Africa’s fourth-largest gold exporter after South Africa, Ghana and Mali. Companies including Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s largest producer of the precious metal, and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. have mines in the country.
Slaa, a former Roman Catholic priest with a Ph.D. in canon law, has vowed to review mining contracts to ensure every Tanzanian sees the benefit of country’s natural resource.
The country’s domestic product was $21.6 billion with a gross national income per capita of $500 in 2009 for a population of 43.7 million, according to World Bank data. That compares with an average of $1,096 for sub-Saharan Africa. The total size of the economy is second only to Kenya in the East African region.
Tanzania is the continent’s fifth-biggest producer of coffee, after Ethiopia, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, and the world’s sole source of tanzanite, a violet-blue precious stone.
Tanzanians voted today to elect a president for the union, which includes the mainland as well as the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar. There was a second ballot to choose Zanzibar’s president and parliament.
On Zanzibar, clashes followed the last two elections in 2000 and 2005, after the opposition accused the island’s president, Amani Abeid Karume, and his CCM party of vote-rigging. A power-sharing deal agreed in July eased tensions. There was no sign of violence in Zanzibar today, East said.
About 20 million people registered to vote in the elections. Final results are expected on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3.