Dar es Salaam. The United States embassy in Dar es Salaam yesterday voiced its concern about how last Sunday’s parliamentary and civic by-elections were conducted in various parts of the country.
The embassy said in a statement that the by-elections were marred by “violence and irregularities”, including the refusal by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to register opposition party candidates.
The embassy was also concerned about what it said was intimidation of opposition party members by police, unwarranted arrests and suppression of freedoms of assembly and speech in the run-up to the elections.
“Such actions undermine the rights that Tanzania’s Constitution guarantees its citizens and jeopardise peace, stability and security in the country and throughout the region,” the statement said.
The government’s spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas, told The Citizen that queries about how the by-elections were conducted should be directed at NEC.
“All matters related to elections should be addressed to the National Electoral Commission,’’ Dr Abbasi said in a text message. However, Dr Abbasi said last night that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation would issued a statement on the matter.
Reached for comment, NEC chairman Semistocles Kaijage said he would respond after seeing the statement. However, he had not responded by the time we went to press.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) said the by-elections were not free and fair, adding that the polls were marred by irregularities. Addressing a press conference in Dar es Salaam, the party’s acting secretary-general, Ms Dorothy Semu, said the Buyungu parliamentary by-election “was rigged”.
“Eight candidates from the opposition were unfairly disqualified from the by-elections a few hours before polls opened,” she said.
According to Ms Semu, other opposition candidates in some wards in Tunduma were disqualified on the grounds that they were not Tanzanian citizens.
“All the opposition candidates at Turwa (Tarime) were stopped from campaigning two days before the elections, and other rallies were violently disrupted by police.”
Neither NEC chairman Semistocles Kaijage nor elections director Athumani Kihamia picked up our calls to their mobile numbers to respond to the allegations.
By-elections were held in Buyungu Constituency, Kigoma Region, and 36 wards across the country last Sunday.
The election in Buyungu was held following the death in May of the area MP, Kasuku Bilago of Chadema.
The CCM candidate, Mr Christopher Chiza, a former cabinet minister, was officially declared the winner.
According to NEC, Mr Chiza bagged 24,578 votes to reclaim the seat he lost in 2015. Chadema’s Elia Fredrick Michael was second with 16,910 votes.
CCM candidates swept all 36 civic seats that were up for grabs. At least 13 CCM candidates were elected unopposed.
The seats fell vacant after the defection of some opposition councillors to CCM, death of incumbents or expulsion of councillors from parties that sponsored them in the 2015 General Election.