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Zanzibar political rift widens after rerun standoff

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CUF supporters after cancellation of Zanzibar election results on October 30, 2015. FILE PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA |  AFP

By CHRISTOPHER KIDANKA

Posted  Sunday, February 14   2016 at  08:39

In Summary

  • With the withdrawal of nine opposition parties, including the Civic United Front (CUF) — which had declared victory in last year’s election — the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) will face only three parties.
  • Two commissioners of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) have also disputed the decision to announce a rerun, a factor the electoral body says will have no effect on the election.
  • CCM officials have downplayed the widening political crisis, saying the election boycott by the nine opposition parties neither bothers the ruling party nor renders the election illegitimate.
  • The development puts Zanzibar in the international spotlight as political observers fear for tough political times ahead due to collapse of talks between CCM and CUF under which a peaceful solution was expected.

The political crisis in Zanzibar following a cancellation of the October election results could worsen following a boycott of the planned rerun by the majority of political parties.

Two commissioners of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) have also disputed the decision to announce a rerun, a factor the electoral body says will have no effect on the election.

With the withdrawal of nine opposition parties, including the Civic United Front (CUF) — which had declared victory in last year’s election — the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) will face only three parties.

CCM officials have downplayed the widening political crisis, saying the election boycott by the nine opposition parties neither bothers the ruling party nor renders the election illegitimate.

Nape Nnauye, CCM Publicity and Ideology Secretary told The EastAfrican that his party will go to the poll regardless of who is boycotting because “not all political parties have been fielding candidates in every election.”

ZEC chairman, Jecha Salum Jecha was not available to comment on the CUF commissioners boycott but Harold Sungusia, director of Advocacy and Empowerment at Legal and Human Rights Centre said ZEC has a legal mandate to supervise the election rerun because article 119 of Zanzibar Constitution says the decision of the commission shall be reached by the majority of its commissioners.

“Provided the majority are not objecting the rerun then the election shall be legal; but in my opinion the commission has no moral authority to supervise even the election of class one monitor because it had already messed up in the previous election,” he said.

The human rights watchdog official said ZEC had annulled the election citing a number of irregularities such as votes exceeding the number of registered voters in some polling centres, and fighting of some members of the commission, things which render ZEC incompetent.

International spotlight

The development puts Zanzibar in the international spotlight as political observers fear for tough political times ahead due to collapse of talks between CCM and CUF under which a peaceful solution was expected.

The Commonwealth had appointed former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as a mediator in the crisis in December to steer the mediation efforts but he was reportedly ignored.

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