Tanzania Elections kick off amid rising concerns for Democracy

Tanzania Election
Tanzanians queue to cast their votes in the presidential election, at a polling station in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (AP Photo/Khalfan Said)

Tanzania’s high stakes elections have successfully kicked off, with reports that some centers recorded queues as early as 4 am.

On the mainland, just over 29 million registered voters will cast their ballots, while some 566,000 will vote in Zanzibar from 7 am until 4 pm.

The vote has largely been seen as a duet pitting the incumbent President John Magufuli and Tundu Lissu, 52, of the Chadema opposition party.

Magufuli has been heavily campaigning for his stellar infrastructure development and fiery anti-corruption stance to secure him a second mandate.

Squeezing Democracy

On the other hand, Lissu’s return from exile has rejuvenated an opposition that was previously demoralized by a ban on political rallies outside of election time, multiple arrests, attacks, and what rights groups have slammed as the squeezing of democracy.

“I have witnessed through the campaign that Tanzanians are ready for changes and I believe they will turn out to vote tomorrow,” he said at his final rally.

In a boost for the opposition’s chances, Zitto Kabwe, the head of the popular ACT-Wazalendo party, has endorsed Lissu for the presidency on the mainland.

In return, Chadema is backing veteran opposition candidate Seif Sharif Hamad in his sixth bid for the presidency in Zanzibar, this time against CCM candidate Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

Zanzibar has a history of bloody elections plagued with violence and irregularities and the opposition has again accused the ruling party of seeking to steal the vote.

What Corona?

The election campaign has taken place with little regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, Magufuli ordered Tanzania’s health ministry to stop giving out official data on infection numbers in April, and Magufuli has declared the country Covid-free.

Magufuli received backlash and scorn from his neighbors as well as international health organizations.

He however reiterated his commitment to better the economy and ensure that Tanzania remains resilient.