KAMPALA. Uganda—Tanzanian President John Magufuli won a second term in a landslide, election officials said, following a chaotic vote slammed as fraudulent by human-rights groups and the opposition.
Mr. Magufuli, who has claimed the coronavirus could be cured by divine intervention—the country stopped publishing the results of tests in May, declaring the pandemic over—won 84% of the votes cast, or 12.5 million, the National Electoral Commission reported late Friday. The top vote-getter among his 14 opponents was Tundu Lissu, at 13%, or 1.9 million votes.
The margin was by far the latest since multiparty elections began in Tanzania in 1995. Mr. Magufuli’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or Party of the Revolution, which has been in power since Tanzania’s independence from Britain in 1961, also had a big win, increasing its seats in Parliament to 253 from 160, out of 264 total.
For Mr. Magufuli, who has presided over a period of strong economic growth, the victory means a second five-year term—under Tanzania’s constitution, his last. But party officials have increasingly called for Parliament to pass an amendment extending the presidential tenure, were they to win enough seats. Other African countries are overhauling term limits. including Ivory Coast, where President Alassane Ouattara running for a third term in elections Saturday, and Guinea, where the opposition is challenging a third term awarded to President Alpha Condé in an Oct. 18 vote.
Mr. Lissu, who heads the main opposition party, Chadema—formally, the Party for Democracy and Progress—rejected the results, alleging widespread voting fraud and intimidation, and called for mass protests. The electoral commission dismissed the allegations.
Tanzania didn’t invite European Union or United Nations observers to monitor the vote. The U.S. Embassy in Tanzania said “irregularities and overwhelming margins of victory raised serious doubts,” and cited what it called credible allegations of repeat voting, prefilled ballots and opposition-party officials’ being denied access to polling stations. It also called out the alleged arrests of several opposition candidates and protesters.
The few international groups present criticized the vote. Tanzania Elections Watch, a regional observer group, said it fell way below acceptable standards and marked “the most significant backsliding” in the country’s democratic credentials.
“The demonstrable lack of transparency, stakeholder engagement and accountability in the general management of the electoral process limited the opportunity for credible elections,” said Frederick Ssempebwa, the head of the group.
Mr. Magufuli, a former schoolteacher, rode into office on a populist wave in 2015, promising to tackle corruption and government waste. He quickly cut back international travel by government officials and halted lavish state ceremonies. And he also challenged multinational companies operating in Tanzania—rich in gold and natural gas—saying he would secure a larger chunk of its natural resources for its citizens.
But after just a year in office, Mr. Magufuli also banned opposition gatherings. And in the months leading up to this year’s election, the government passed laws that opponents and activists say limits the operations of the media, rights groups and opposition politicians.
Internet and social media were blocked on the eve of the election, according to internet watchdog group NetBlock—forcing users to rely on location-disguising virtual private networks to send messages. Twitter said it was “seeing some blocking and throttling” of its services in Tanzania.
Under Mr. Magufuli, Tanzania’s economy has grown an average of more 6% a year, enabling the country to attain lower-middle-income status in July, according to the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund forecasts 1.9% growth this year. Analysts expect Mr. Magufuli’s government to contain election-linked instability.
“We think there will be opposition-led protests against the results, but these will be met with a security crackdown, preventing prolonged popular unrest,” said Trupti Agrawal, an East Africa analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Tanzania’s faltering democracy and rights issues may attract criticism for the regime, but bilateral and multilateral partners will prioritize trade and economic ties.”
Speaking to reporters in Dar es Salaam, opposition leader Mr. Lissu said, “There was unprecedented levels of fraud and use of force. The will of the people to elect the leaders of their choice has been stolen.” In 2017, Mr. Lissu survived an assassination attempt in which he was shot 16 times in front of the Parliament building by a still-unidentified gunman.
The main opposition candidate in the semiautonomous archipelago of Zanzibar was arrested on Thursday for the second time on a week. At least 10 people have been killed in clashes with police in Tanzania, according to rights and opposition groups, in what observers say is some of the worst election violence in the country since at least 1995.
Write to Nicholas Bariyo at firstname.lastname@example.org
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