By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania's president-elect, John Magufuli, promised on Friday to speed up economic growth and development in the East African nation, a day after he was declared winner of a presidential vote that his opponent rejected as rigged.
Magufuli's ruling CCM party faced its toughest electoral challenge in more than half century in power, after the main opposition parties united for Sunday's vote around a single candidate for the first time, Edward Lowassa.
Lowassa, 62, a former prime minister who defected from the ruling party in July, rejected the electoral commission's declaration, saying the opposition's own count based on its representatives at polling stations showed he won.
Both candidates had promised to create more jobs and drive up economic growth in a nation that has vast tracts of agricultural land, a wealth of mineral resources and huge gas reserves but has struggled to make a bigger dent on poverty.
"I pledge to build a new Tanzania with faster economic development. This is the real change that people want to see," Magufuli, 56, who was the public works minister, told supporters after receiving a victory certificate from the electoral body.
His earned the nickname of "The Bulldozer" for pushing projects through. Under his watch, a new rapid bus system has almost been completed in Dar es Salaam, the clogged commercial capital, as well as other transport projects.
Tanzania's economy has been growing at 7 percent a year, but it is growing from a low base with income per capita below the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, according to World Bank figures.
During the campaign, Magufuli had been critical of outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete's government for slow decision-making.
"Some of the criticism that I got is that I am not strict enough," Kikwete said, endorsing his successor. "Magufuli will introduce a strict style of leadership and achieve faster economic growth."
Magufuli is scheduled to be sworn-in as Tanzania's fifth president on Nov. 5.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alison Williams)