Amani Abeid Karume was inaugurated to a second term as president of Tanzania's semi-autonomous Zanzibar islands. His Chama Cha Mapinduzi party represents Zanzibar's ethnic African majority, and he purportedly received fifty-three percent of the votes. His opponent, Seif Sharif Hamad of the predominantly ethnic Arab Civic United Front, C-U-F, got forty-six percent of the vote. C-U-F does not accept the veracity of these results.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi party won thirty parliamentary seats and the Civic United Front won nineteen. Officials estimate that eighty-three percent of Zanzibar's more than five-hundred-thousand eligible voters cast their ballots.
An independent U.S. monitoring group, the National Democratic Institute, N-D-I, said in its preliminary report that this year's elections in Zanzibar were an improvement over previous elections. But the report pointed out that, "Security forces in some instances used excessive force such as tear gas and water cannons. Irregularities such as underage voting and double voting were witnessed." In its final report, N-D-I noted that much of the difficulty associated with this election came about because of the lack of transparency surrounding the preliminary voter registration lists, which in turn fueled the potential for abuses.
A statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania says the U.S. remains "troubled by the irregularities and reserves judgment on the freedom and fairness of elections in Zanzibar until their impact on the outcome is clarified." The U.S. and some European Union countries are calling for an investigation. According to news reports, after the election there were clashes between rival political groups, with at least two people killed. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. "deplores all political violence in Zanzibar":
"We call on all parties to show restraint. The Tanzanian government should establish an independent inquiry to investigate voting irregularities and discrepancies."
The U.S., says Mr. McCormack, also calls on the Tanzanian government "to release all political detainees":
"Particularly the many opposition supporters arrested in recent days, and to withdraw the extensive security forces surrounding the opposition Civic United Front. . . .headquarters in Stone Town."
"The opposition must refrain from inciting civil disobedience during this time of heightened tension," says State Department spokesman McCormack. "The best way forward for Tanzania is through peaceful participation of all political groups."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.