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With Election Days Away, Tanzanians Say Some Poll Problems Remain


In a meeting in Dar es Salaam Tuesday, the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania and representatives of political parties contesting in the October 30 polls criticized each other for allegedly not ensuring free and fair elections.

National Electoral Commission chairman Judge Lewis Makame opened Tuesday's meeting by warning the parties not to allow their supporters to use violence or intimidation during their campaigns or on voting day.

Mr. Makame urged those at the meeting to abide by a code of conduct that 16 out of 18 political parties signed recently in which they promised to conduct peaceful rallies, refrain from using inflammatory language during their campaigns, and to accept the results of the October 30 election.

Mr. Makame says his commission once proposed that the electoral code should be made legally binding. He urges the leaders of the political parties to seriously consider the proposal so that in the future everyone will be forced to conform with the code.

Recently, supporters of the two major parties in Tanzania, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, and the largest opposition group, Civic United Front, have clashed, particularly on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar.

But the national electoral commission also came in for criticism. Some of the parties accused the commission of not following proper procedures in the days leading up to Sunday's polls.

The Civic United Front's election officer, Hussein Mmasi, tells VOA that during the meeting, which was not open to the news media, he and some members of other parties expressed their concerns.

"Some voters, their names or their identity cards are not displayed in polling stations, and this is a big problem," he said. "It is all over Tanzania."

Mr. Mmasi says in some cases, security agents have taken away voting cards in a particular part of the country, claiming that the voters are not Tanzanian citizens.

VOA was unable to reach electoral commission officials for comment about those cases.

Mr. Makame also said that the electoral commission expects that more than 300 foreign election observers will be present in the country for the polls.

Observer missions include: the U.K.-based Commonwealth Observer Group; the Washington-based National Democratic Institute; the South African-based Electoral Institute of Southern Africa; and three delegations from the Southern African Development Community.

Tanzania's October 30 polls are the third since the East African nation restored political pluralism in 1992.