Tanzania’s opposition has accused the government of making it difficult to accredit thousands of opposition electoral observers who want to ensure the vote is fair.
Presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, who hopes to unseat President John Magufuli, claimed there were vote-rigging plans on the October 28 polls meant to deny the opposition victory across all the electoral levels.
He said the plot included massive manipulation of the voter register, existence of fake polling centres and alleged planned violence against targeted opposition leaders.
Populist President Magufuli has been criticized for stifling dissent since his 2015 election win, notably by barring opposition parties from holding most public gatherings. He leads the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party that has held power for decades.
The two leading opposition parties, ACT Wazalendo and Chadema, finally overcame differences in ideology and ambition last week to unite behind Chadema’s Tundu Lissu, who this year returned from exile. He had fled to Belgium after a 2017 assassination attempt in which he was shot 16 times.
Earlier this month, Lissu was banned from campaigning for a week by authorities.
The National Electoral Commission, whose members are appointed by Magufuli, said the suspension was punishment for making what it deemed seditious statements. Opposition parties say some other candidates have been unfairly disqualified from running.
Another top Chadema official, Freeman Mbowe, was attacked by unknown assailants in June after he accused the government of covering up the extent of Tanzania’s coronavirus outbreak.
Tanzania is one of Africa’s most populous and peaceful countries and, at least before the COVID-19 pandemic, one of its fastest-growing economies.
Observers say the country’s election, to be held on Wednesday, is already flawed due to allegations of voter fraud and manipulation of the voter register.