Voting starts in tight Tanzania general elections

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2015 10:24 AM
Voting starts in tight Tanzania general elections

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Tanzanians turned out in large numbers Sunday to vote in general elections in which the ruling party, a dominant force for decades, faces a strong challenge from a united opposition.

There were still lines of people waiting to vote in the country's largest city when polling officially ended at 4 p.m. local time. The authorities had said people already in the lines would be allowed to vote but not those who came later.

Many analysts believe the presidential race is too close to predict. The ruling party's candidate, Works Minister John Magufuli, is battling former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who defected to the opposition earlier this year after being rejected as the ruling party's candidate.

Lowassa, 62, was prime minister in President Jakaya Kikwete's government from 2005 to 2008, but was forced to resign by a corruption scandal.

Magufuli, 55, is widely seen as a corruption-free, effective public servant who could improve the ruling party's image in the eyes of ordinary people fed up with state graft.

Voters Sunday also chose lawmakers for the country's parliament and local officials.

"This is going to be a tight race, if this turnout is anything to go by," said Dar es Salaam resident Amina Abdallah, one of those lining up to vote. "I just pray that it will be peaceful, so we can all go back to our normal life."

The electoral commission says it hopes to announce the winner within three to four days, although it has up to a week to announce the results.

Damian Lubuva, the commission's head, said Saturday that more than 23 million voters are registered to vote across the East African country.

The semi-autonomous island archipelago of Zanzibar also voted for a president and local leaders.