Dar es Salaam. At last, Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) yesterday announced March 20, 2016, a the date for the re-run of the disputed General Election, a move likely to deepen the Isles political standoff and thrust the economy into a state of uncertainty.
The re-election of the President, members of the House of Representatives and Shehia (Civic leaders) follows the surprise annulment of the October 25 results by the ZEC Chairman Jecha Salim Jecha, three days into counting and announcing of the outcome of the vote. And the recalled vote is going to be like not any other, with a statement released by Mr Jecha yesterday saying there will be no campaigning in the days before the announced polls day.
The main opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF) has already indicated it would not participate in a repeat election, with its Secretary General Seif Shariff Hamad expressing frustration at lack of progress in talks with the ruling CCM to unlock the impasse before the latest development.
The talks between CCM leaders, including President Ali Mohammed Shein and Mr Hamad appeared to collapse lasts week when no progress was announced. CCM has insisted on a repeat election while Mr Hamad who declared earlier he had won the vote on the first count vowed not to lead his supporters into such a plan. He argued a re-election was baseless, lacked a legal basis and was intended to make the Isles to fall under an unconstitutional leadership.
Analysts of the Zanzibar political history have warned that the repeat election could open decades-long wounds and raise insecurity among the people and also threaten the stability of the local economy.
The ZEC announcement revealed through a bulletin on the state broadcaster Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) largely drew muted response from the people, safe for small groups that chartered the development’s quietly. There was also a marked heavy presence of security personnel patrolling the streets ahead of the ZBC bulletin.
CUF was yet to react by the time of going to press and inquiries indicated the party was preparing a detailed response on the matter.
The development came also on the day that a public forum to review the 2015 General Election held at the University of Dar es Salaam saw some speakers accuse CCM leaders of mishandling the Zanzibar polls in order to cling to power.
According to Mr Jecha, since the cancellation of the 2015 elections, the commission has held preparations and talks aimed at making the re-run election successful.
He said ZEC reached the decision to hold fresh elections at a meeting held on Thursday. “We have agreed that the re-election will take place on March 20, this year, it will be on Sunday,” said Mr Jecha.
The ZEC boss said the re-election will involve election of the President of Zanzibar, members of House of Representatives ad councillors.
However, Mr Jecha said political parties and candidates will not be allowed to engage in campaign rallies or nomination new candidates.
“There will be no campaigns ahead of election on march 20, also there will be no new nominations of candidates as the re-election will involve the same candidates who were running in the annulled elections,” reads part of the statement.
He asked wananchi and political parties to continue embracing peace and unity as they prepare for the re-election exercise.
“I would like to ask leaders and members of political parties to remain calm and maintain peace and security as we prepare for the re-election exercise. I believe wananchi and political parties will continue supporting ZEC as we prepare for this important event for the betterment of our nation,” he said.
On October 28, 2015, the ZEC’s boss cancelled the Isles election results, saying the polls were marred with irregularities. He said fresh elections would be held in 90 days as stipulated in law. However the new date suggests the law provision was broken as is the election law requirement that candidates be allowed at least two months to campaign ahead of any elections.
Mr Jecha yesterday defended his decision to annul the earlier election that drew hue and cry from the opposition as well as attracting criticism from several election monitor groups and foreign governments .