Tanzanian President Magufuli Wins Big in Disputed Vote

Tanzanian President John Magufuli was declared the resounding winner of an election that the opposition said was rigged and the U.S. government indicated was seriously flawed.

Magufuli, 61, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s candidate, secured 84.4% of valid ballots cast in the Oct. 28 vote, according to the results released by the National Electoral Commission on Friday. His main rival, Tundu Lissu, 52, of the Chadema party won 13%. Slightly more than 15 million people voted.

The margin of Magufuli’s victory was the widest of any presidential candidate in almost three decades of Tanzania holding multi-party elections.

Investors will now be watching closely to see if the opposition’s call for mass protests has the potential to derail one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer.

Magufuli focused his campaign on his development record, including new roads, rail links, ports, power plants and 1,700 new health centers. A resounding victory for the president and his party will give him more leeway to pursue his infrastructure investment drive.

The government could also be emboldened to act on its ambition to extract more tax from foreign mining companies. In 2017, the authorities asked Barrick Gold Corp.’s local unit to pay a whopping $190 billion tax bill -- a dispute the company has since agreed to settle with a $300 million payment and the creation of a mining joint venture with the government.

While Magufuli initially won praise for clamping down on corruption and government inefficiency, he faced criticism toward the end of his first five-year tenure for stifling dissent and clamping and eroding civil liberties. In the run-up to the vote, a number of opposition candidates were disqualified from standing, and reports surfaced of internet shutdowns and interference with social media sites, including Twitter and WhatsApp.

Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo, the biggest opposition party on the semi-autonmous island of Zanzibar, said the elections were marred by violence and fraud, including ballot stuffing. Election officials rejected the claims, saying the elections were credible.

Opposition Arrested

The ruling party candidate in Zanzibar, Hussein Mwinyi, was declared winner of the local presidential contest. His main rival, ACT-Wazalendo’s Seif Sharif Hamad, was briefly detained after calling for protests. Several other opposition figures remain in police custody.

Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo called for the dismantling of electoral agencies in mainland Tanzania and in Zanzibar and the formation of new commissions before fresh elections, according to Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbowe. “We are calling for non-stop nationwide peaceful demonstrations from Nov. 2 until our demands are met,” he told journalists on Saturday.

The U.S. embassy in Tanzania said in a statement Thursday that “credible allegations” of fraud and intimidation and the “overwhelming margins of victory” in favor of the ruling party raised serious questions about the fairness of the election.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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