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Zanzibar tells supporters to remain patient

Sella Oneko November 2, 2015

Zanzibar’s opposition has called on its supporters to remain patient after the electoral commission annulled election results. Opposition leader, Seif Sharif Hamad, is expected to hold talks with Tanzania’s army chief.

Opposition leader Zanzibar Seif Sharif Hamad
Image: DW/M. Khelef

For Zanzibar's incumbent president Ali Mohamed Shein, November 2, 2015, should have marked the end of his term in office. Yet according to a recent statement by Tanzania's government, Shein is set to remain in power until the semi-autonomous regions holds fresh elections and a new government is chosen.

On Tuesday October 27, 2015, Seif Sharif Hamad (pictured above) of Zanzibar's main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), had declared himself the winner of the elections before the announcement of the official results. A day later the elections were annulled, citing "violations of electoral law".

As political and civil society leaders, as well as members of the international community are meeting for negotiations, Hamad seemed optimistic over the region's political future. “Let us be patient, as the international community is also helping to have Zanzibar's political crisis resolved," he said. According to DW correspondent, Mohammed Khelef, the meeting between Hamad and army chief General Davis Mwamunyange was called by the opposition to discuss the army's conduct during the elections. Last week, the army had surrounded and locked up the electoral center, postponing the announcement of the results.

Over the weekend, the mood in Zanzibar was tense, but both supporters of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and the opposition refrained from an outright confrontation. Two blasts were reported in the regional capital, but nobody was hurt and it is uncertain whether the blasts were related to the elections. Troops have now been deployed in the town.

Ali Mohammed Shein incumbent president of Zanzibar
Zanzibar's incumbent president Shein will remain in office until a new leader is elected.Image: DW/M. Khelef

Abdu Sherif, a historian at the University of Dar es Salaam, put the lack of protests down to the country's political system. "We have a government of national unity. So it's a question of who comes on top, but nobody loses completely,"he said. However, he noted that many people are questioning the legitimacy of extending President Shein's term and said that if Zanzibar is left with a power vacuum, Hamad would have to act in order to not lose the trust of his voters.

The political situation also remains uncertain, as some ruling hardliners are maintaining that the opposition party's premature announcement of victory was in fact a criminal act. Mohamed Aboud, Zanzibar's Minister of State in the Second Vice President's Office, voiced his views on the local radio station, ZBC, and called on security forces to take action against those who he said had broken the law.

Tanzania's incumbent president Jakaya Kikwete expressed his readiness to do anything in his power to regularize the situation in Zanzibar and dismissed opposition claims that he had previously refused to meet opposition leaders. The Tanzanian government has ordered the country's police chief to investigate complaints against the conduct of police officers during the elections. The electoral commission initially said it would hold fresh elections in 90 days, yet whether this will happen depends on the outcome of the talks.

Mohammed Khelef contributed to this report.