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Tanzania heads to the polls in presidential and local elections

Voters in Tanzania have headed to the polls in what looks to be a tight presidential election. The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), faces a strong challenge from a united opposition.

Tanzania's current President Jakaya Kikwete is stepping down after having served a maximum of two five-year terms, leaving the floor open for the CCM's new candidate, John Magufuli.

Leading

the opposition bid is former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa,

who defected to the opposition earlier this year after being rejected as the ruling party's candidate.

Thousands of voters have been drawn to Lowassa's rallies in recent weeks, with the main opposition parties uniting behind one candidate for the first time.

After 54 years of the CCM, much of Tanzania's electorate is looking for a break from the past. The extent to which change can be achieved remains to be seen, however, with the opposition candidate having quit the CCM in July.

The result of Sunday's election could

depend heavily on the vote of Tanzania's youth,

with 50 percent of the country's population aged between 18 and 32. Recent statistics showed that younger voters tended to favor the opposition. Sunday will also see five million Tanzanians heading to the polls for the first time.

Result within days

Voters were also due to choose local officials and lawmakers in the country's parliament on Sunday. According to Damian Lubuva, the head of Tanzania's electoral commission, more than 23 million voters are registered to vote across the East African country.

The commission said it hoped to announce the winning party within three to four days.

The semi-autonomous island archipelago of Zanzibar, off the east coast of Tanzania, was also

voting for a president

and local leaders on Sunday.

ksb/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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