Voting in national elections, expected to hand Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete a second term, began smoothly yesterday in the country’s largest city, but voters at some polling stations complained of poor organization.
Some voters who had turned up early in Dar es Salaam complained they had not been briefed on the procedure, their names were missing from the list and that the exercise began late.
However, on the country’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, which has seen bloody poll violence in the past, voting largely opened on time and the exercise was orderly despite an early morning downpour.
“We want peace and we want economic change. We’ve been educating our children and yet there are no jobs for them,” said 61-year-old Mustafa Masha, who came to vote in central Dar es Salaam.
Nurdin Shabir, a trader at another station nearby, said: “To me peace is of paramount importance so I can continue making a living for me and my family.”
Kikwete, who has pledged to improve education, health and infrastructure, has predicted victory over his five rivals, some of whom have criticized him for failing to tackle rampant poverty and corruption.
“Our party [Party of the Revolution, CCM] will win. I have no doubt about that,” he told -thousands of jubilant supporters at a final rally on Saturday in Dar es Salaam. “We began our campaign on the basis of our good record and we have fulfilled our pledges. We still have a long way to go but our objectives are very achievable.”
Opposition group Civic United Front’s (CUF) presidential candidate Ibrahim Lipumba criticized Kikewete for failing to honor pledges he made when he first came to power five years ago and urged supporters to reject his new agenda.
Lipumba is contesting the presidency for the fourth time after losing twice to Kikwete’s predecessor and to Kikwete himself in 2005.
Opinion polls have given Kikwete, a former foreign minster, a wide lead.
Sixty-two-year-old Wilbrod Slaa of the CHADEMA party is Kikwete’s closest rival, but scored just 10 percent in the opinion polls released earlier this month.
He is a first time contender and has pledged to rein in corruption and improve the economy.
Some 19 million voters in mainland Tanzania will also elect lawmakers and local leaders.
In Zanzibar, veteran opposition politician Seif Sharif Hamad of the CUF will face the ruling CCM’s Ali Mohamed Shein for the island’s presidency in a contest expected to be closely fought. The two are the most prominent of the seven candidates.
However, under the power-sharing Constitution adopted in July, they are likely to serve in a unity government aimed at ending recurrent election violence.
“If you want change ... then vote for me, but if you want to live under the current circumstances, then feel free to go the other way,” Hamad told thousands of cheering supporters on Saturday.
The run-up to this year’s elections has been the most lively since the country resumed multi-party politics in 1992.
Tanzania, east Africa’s largest country, has enjoyed political stability since independence in 1961, unlike its neighbors, which have been plagued by unrest.