Sunday, October 30, 2005

ZANZIBAR ELECTIONS

Counting begins in Zanzibar polls. The ruling CCM party faces a strong challenge. Counting is under way after polling in presidential and parliamentary elections on Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar. There have been reports of sporadic violence and accusations by the opposition that some people have been prevented from voting. But the extreme violence that marred previous polls has so far been absent. More than 30,000 security forces have been deployed. Some 500,000 people were expected to cast their ballots.
President Amani Karume's main challenger in the election, Seif Hamad, said members of his staff and some party officials were abducted, leaving them unable to vote. The BBC's Karen Allen in Zanzibar says there is no independent verification of the claim, but it adds to a general sense of mistrust about how the polling is being carried out. Mainland poll suspended.
Mr Karume was among the first to cast his vote and said he was optimistic of his party's continued success.
ZANZIBAR AND PEMBA
Population: Nearly 1m
Area: 2,461 sq km (950 square miles)
Major languages: Kiswahili, English
Major religion: Islam
Main exports: Cloves, seaweed, coconut, copra.

He is running for a second term after winning elections in November 2000, while Mr Hamad was runner-up in Zanzibar's 1995 and 2000 presidential elections. As well as casting their ballots for a president, voters were choosing 50 members for the legislature and 139 local councillors. Mr Karume's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is disputing the polls with Mr Hamad's Civic United Front (CUF), the islands' largest opposition party.
Voting on the mainland has been postponed due to the death of opposition vice-presidential candidate, Jumbe Rajab Jumbe. Zanzibar voters will now have to wait until 18 December to vote in nationwide presidential and legislative elections. There was uncertainty for a while about whether the polls on the archipelago would proceed. But the Zanzibar Electoral Commission said the province was not bound by national electoral rules and voting could go ahead.

BBC NEWS REPORT BY KAREN ALLEN.

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