Tanzania’s Magufuli Leads Vote as Zanzibar Annulment Slammed

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Tanzania’s ruling-party candidate, John Magufuli, extended his lead in the country’s presidential election as observers criticized the authorities for annulling the vote on the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar.

Magufuli is ahead in about three quarters of the 259 constituencies counted, according to results announced by the National Electoral Commission Thursday in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The East African nation has 264 constituencies. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who has alleged irregularities in the vote, led in about 19 percent of counted constituencies and said he’s filed a formal petition against the results.

“All means necessary are being used to rig the election,” Lowassa said in a post on his Twitter account.

Magufuli is seeking to succeed Jakaya Kikwete as the fifth president of Africa’s third-biggest gold-producing nation since it gained independence from Britain in 1961. The government is trying to diversify its mostly agrarian economy by going into gas production, with an estimated 55 trillion cubic feet of reserves that are the biggest in East Africa after Mozambique.

Observers from groups including the African Union and the European Union said the vote was conducted in a “generally peaceful and organized manner,” but questioned the decision by Zanzibari authorities to cancel the outcome of its presidential vote. Zanzibar forms a political union with Tanzania and has been a flash-point in previous elections.

“We now respectfully request the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to specify in which polling stations there were irregularities,” the observer missions said in a joint statement. “Democracy, peace and unity in Zanzibar are at stake.”

Zanzibar’s main opposition Civic United Front party had said before the annulment that it was confident of victory for its presidential candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad.

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