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Complaints Put Forth as Zanzibar Election Results Trickle In

Results are starting to trickle in from semi-autonomous Zanzibar's elections on Sunday. The islands' main opposition group is alleging that serious irregularities have taken place, while the ruling party dismissed those allegations.

As the vote-counting was under way, the two key contenders in the elections, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, and the main opposition group the Civic United Front issued statements outlining their concerns.

CUF presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad told reporters that, based on his party's experience of Sunday's elections, he concludes that they were anything but free and fair.

"The electoral process has been marred with a number of shortcomings," said Mr. Hamad. "First of all, a number of our party agents were not supplied with results sheets, and as such that may lead to the results to be cooked in some areas. Secondly, we have realized that about 80-thousand people could not vote, and some of them had voting cards. Their names were listed outside, but they were not in the register. Because of that, you find these people are denied their right [to vote]."

Other opposition complaints include: instances where the ruling party had brought in truckloads of youth nicknamed "janjaweed" and others to vote for the ruling party at some polling stations; the discovery of what the Civic United Front says were extra ballot boxes at locations that did not have polling stations; and police intimidation and brutality at several polling stations and within Stone Town.

Mr. Hamad called for the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to address the opposition concerns before issuing final results, and says his party plans to stage peaceful protests if members determine that the results do not reflect the will of Zanzibaris.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi denies that Sunday's polls were riddled with irregularities. CCM official Kidawa Saleh explains.

"The process went on well. [We] can say that everybody has the chance to vote," he said. "The situation was peaceful, very calm. So for me, the process went on really well."

In statements released Sunday and Monday, the ruling party accused the opposition of throwing stones at, intimidating, and beating up voters on poll day, seriously injuring one voter with a machete. The ruling party alleged that CUF supporters stole the voting cards of eight young women.

The ruling party criticized its rival for saying it has captured the majority of votes in Zanzibar, and accused Mr. Hamad of starting an early-morning demonstration at which police fired tear gas at a stone-throwing crowd.

A government statement said there were no running battles between police and opposition supporters, and the police were merely at polls and in the town to ensure peace.

Tensions remain high in Stone Town. Police broke up several demonstrations, and eye-witnesses say they saw police beating people.

Sunday's elections were the third to be held since Tanzania restored multi-party politics in 1992.

There had been volatile clashes between the two groups during the 1995 and 2000 election. Each side has accused the other of causing the violence.

In the months leading up to this year's polls, there were also clashes between supporters of the two parties made worse by what the East Africa Law Society calls the "unjustifiably violent Zanzibar police."