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Zanzibar opposition claims victory in tense Tanzania poll

26 October 2015, 19:28

Zanzibar - Zanzibar's main opposition presidential candidate declared himself the winner Monday of elections on the semi-autonomous archipelago of Tanzania, ahead of any official announcement of results.

Seif Sharif Hamad from the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), the vice-president in the previous unity government, told reporters he had won Sunday's polls, claiming to have seen official documents of final voting figures.

There has been no announcement from the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and the figures given by Seif could not be verified, but the declaration is likely to raise tensions on the islands.

Following Hamad's unilateral declaration of victory, CUF supporters charged through the narrow streets of historic Stone Town celebrating and chanting slogans.

Hamad, 71, making his fifth bid for the islands' top job, went head-to-head with incumbent president Ali Mohamed Shein of the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.

"There is no question... the ruling party has been defeated for the first time since 1977," Seif told reporters.

"I have won by 52.87 percent, against the incumbent president Dr Ali Mohamed Shein's 47.13 percent," he said.

Zanzibar has experienced sectarian and political tensions in recent years -- including several grenade explosions -- with the unrest affecting the islands' key tourist industry.

There have also been wider tensions around Zanzibar's union with the mainland, with some opposition political 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.

"We call on the President of United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, to facilitate a smooth transition and not to allow Zanzibar to descend into chaos," Hamad said.

In mainland Tanzania, votes are being counted following Sunday's presidential, general and local elections. Zanzibaris also voted for the national president.

In that race, John Magufuli of CCM is seen as the narrow favourite to beat ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa, a CCM stalwart who recently defected to the opposition Chadema party.

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