Zanzibar opposition wants Magufuli to lead talks, reject poll rerun

Monday January 11 2016

Civic United Front leader Maalim Seif Sharif

Civic United Front leader Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad. AFP PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA 

By Erick Kabendera

Zanzibar’s main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), wants Tanzania President John Magufuli to take over the chairmanship with the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) leaders in the ongoing talks to resolve political dispute in the Isles following cancellation of election results.

CUF says it has lost confidence in CCM’s Zanzibar President Mohammed Shein’s ability to lead the talks in a bipartisan manner.

CUF is also opposed to a rerun of elections and wants the electoral commission to declare it winner of the nullified October polls.

The Zanzibar government has announced that the elections would be repeated on February 28. CUF, however, says a rerun would be illegal and unconstitutional and would plunge Zanzibar into further political crisis and chaos.

Seif Sharif Hamad, CUF party leader and its frontrunner in the October presidential elections, said at a press conference on Monday that the electoral commission should proceed to announce the nullified results to avert possible chaos.

“If CCM decides to go ahead with the decision, we would call a high level CUF meeting to decide on what should be done next. However, we want to assure the public and CCM that we would maintain the Union in accordance to the existing laws and CCM would join our Government of National Union. There is nothing for CCM to be afraid of,” Mr Hamad said.

Bad precedent

He claimed that his party had garnered 52.28 per cent in the presidential poll against Dr Shein's 46.28 per cent.

An election rerun would set a bad precedent in Zanzibar, he said, adding that the decision to nullify the results damaged the Isles’ reputation internationally and a repeat of the poll would elude people's confidence in the electoral process since the leader of their choice had not been declared winner.

So far, eight meetings have been held since the talks between the parties started in late November. Mr Hamad laments that he is the only person from CUF while CCM is represented by five leaders. He accused CCM of making statements which were misleading the public on the status of the talks.

Apart from Mr Hamad and President Shein, whose term was extended, the others involved in the talks include former presidents Jakaya Kikwete, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Abeid Amani Karume, as well as Seif Iddi, the second vice president in the Zanzibar government. Mr Hamad is the first vice president.

Mr Mwinyi was Zanzibar's president briefly before he was picked to run for the Union presidency in 1985 while Mr Karume led the country from 2000 to 2010 during which he successfully negotiated a power sharing pact with Civic United Front (CUF).

Mr Hamad accuses President Shein and Mr Iddi of defending the electoral commission's decision to cancel the results and insisting on a rerun, a position which he says he has "consistently rejected".