Zanzibar to Hold Rerun of Presidential Vote as Tensions Rise

  • Indian Ocean archipelago to vote amid opposition boycott
  • October's vote was invalidated; Civic United Front says it won

Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago in a union with mainland Tanzania, holds a rerun of presidential elections on Sunday that the main opposition is boycotting because the party says it won the original vote.

Polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with about 500,000 people registered to cast ballots, Idrisa Haji, a local electoral committee official, said by phone. Authorities invalidated the results of the initial Oct. 25 election on the Indian Ocean island group, which has its own parliament and leader, citing violations of electoral law.

The opposition Civic United Front, which declared its candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, the winner before official results were confirmed, is boycotting this weekend’s polls, although Hamad is still on ballot papers. President Ali Mohamed Shein has remained in power pending the new vote.

“We did all that we could to assure everyone that we are not taking part in the rerun,” Twaha Taslima, the CUF’s chairman, said in a phone interview. “They said it was not the legal way of withdrawing, therefore we are going with your names.”

Popular with tourists due to its sandy beaches and tropical climate, Zanzibar has seen “contentious and occasionally violent” elections, according to the Washington-based National Democratic Institute. October’s annulment spurred protests dispersed by police. Tanzania’s Daily News reported Friday that authorities on the main island are holding 38 people suspected of criminal acts that include an attempt to blow up the local police commissioner’s home.

Observer groups including the European Union said October’s poll was well-organized. Voting on the same day across Tanzania brought to power President John Magufuli, who’s declared war on corruption and government waste in Africa’s third-biggest gold producer.

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