Tanzania polls: US alarmed over Zanzibar vote annulment

A polling station clerk holds up a ballot paper during vote counting following the closure of polling stations on October 25, 2015, at the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar Image copyright AFP
Image caption This is the first time an election in Zanzibar has been annulled

The US says it is "gravely alarmed" by the scrapping of Zanzibar's tightly contested presidential and parliamentary elections.

The decision should be rescinded, as the election had been "orderly and peaceful", it added in a statement.

Zanzibar's electoral commission chief annulled Sunday's poll, alleging it was marred by rigging.

The opposition says the vote on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago was cancelled as it had won.

On Wednesday, the main challenger in the national presidential election, Edward Lowassa, said the problems in Zanzibar could be mirrored across the country.

The national electoral commission rejected his call for the entire election to be annulled.

The nationwide general elections have been the most tightly contested since independence in 1961.

Four opposition parties united to form the Ukawa coalition, hoping to end the governing CCM party's 54-year rule.

However, partial results show Mr Lowassa is trailing CCM presidential candidate John Magufuli.

Mr Magufuli has 59.2% of the vote compared with Mr Lowassa's 39.6% after results from 195 of Tanzania's 264 constituencies were announced by the national electoral commission, the AFP news agency reports.

Elections in Tanzania tend to be peaceful, except in Zanzibar where previous polls have been marred by violence following disputed results.

The BBC's Sammy Awami in Zanzibar while there is confusion about the announcement by Zanzibar Electoral Commission (Zec), it remains calm.

In a statement, the UK embassy in Tanzania also expressed concern about the scrapping of Zanzibar's elections.

"We note that all the international observers were impressed by the quality of the electoral process they witnessed. We call on Zec to resume the results tabulation process without delay," said the statement.

Tanzania's tightly contested election:

  • CCM was formed in 1977 from a merger of two post-colonial parties and has effectively been in power since independence in 1961.
  • It has fielded Works Minister John Magufuli, 55, as its presidential candidate.
  • He is being challenged by Edward Lowassa, 62, who quit CCM after he failed to win its presidential nomination.
  • He is contesting the poll under the banner of the Ukawa coalition.

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