, TANZANIA, Jan 23 – Zanzibar’s election commission said Friday new presidential polls for Tanzania’s semi-autonomous islands will be held on March 20, after elections last year were scrapped for alleged irregularities.
“Preparations for the fresh election are going on. I appeal for patience, and the observation of election laws,” Zanzibar Election Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha said in a statement after announcing the date of the rerun.
Security was boosted on the Indian Ocean archipelago before the announcement, an AFP reporter on the main island said.
Zanzibar has experienced sectarian and political tensions in recent years — including recent grenade explosions — with the unrest affecting the islands’ key tourist industry.
The October 25 elections, which were held across Tanzania, were scrapped on Zanzibar after ZEC reported “violations of electoral law”, claims dismissed by the opposition.
The annulment came after a key candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), declared himself the winner before the results were officially announced.
CUF spokesman Nassor Mazrui on Friday criticised the new polls and said the party would meet to deliberate if they would take part.
“It is an unfair move,” Mazrui said. “We oppose fresh polls, but since they have forced it, we have to meet and review our position.”
The rerun will cost an estimated some $3.4 million (7.5 billion Tanzanian shillings, 3.2 million euros), according to ZEC.
Zanzibar’s 500,000 registered voters also cast ballots for Tanzania’s national president, and despite the cancellation on the islands, new Tanzanian President John Magufuli was been sworn into office last year.
Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shien of the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) — the same party as Magufuli — remains in power until the polls are held.
Tanzania’s vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, the first woman ever to hold the post, comes from Zanzibar.
Several homemade bombs were detonated in Zanzibar town following the October polls — including in the heart of the historic Stone Town district, a UNESCO-listed area popular with tourists — although there were no major injuries.
There have also been wider tensions around Zanzibar’s union with the mainland, with some opposition parties wanting to break ties and return to the independence it briefly enjoyed in early 1964 before merging with Tanganyika.
The CUF promised to campaign for full autonomy if it wins, while the CCM has vowed to maintain the status quo.