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Tanzanian President Urges Zanzibaris to Vote for Ruling Party

In a farewell speech Friday, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa addressed a rally in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, urging people to vote for the ruling party.

Many in the crowd attending the rally in Amaan Stadium on Zanzibar's Unguja Island were wearing scarves and hats of bright green and yellow, the official colors of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

President Mkapa came to say goodbye to the people of the semi-autonomous islands.

Mr. Mkapa says he thanks Chama Cha Mapinduzi for giving him the opportunity to run twice in elections in 1995 and 2000, and says he has tried his best to rule the country peacefully.

The outgoing leader urged Zanzabaris to refrain from violence in Sunday's polls, and said the best farewell present Zanzibaris could give him would be a victory for CCM.

The race is tight between CCM and the main opposition group, Civic United Front (CUF).

The two parties have a long history of animosity. Elections in 1995 and 2000 were wracked with violence in Zanzibar, and the past few months have seen several street battles between supporters of the two parties.

CUF has repeatedly accused CCM of fomenting violence and using state resources such as the army and funds to ensure their victory in elections.

Meanwhile, CCM has claimed that CUF is the one instigating the violence and that members are doing so because they know they will lose the October 30 elections.

Several international observer missions are in Zanzibar ahead of the polls, meeting with officials, political party representatives, and others to view the voting process.

Unguja has been generally quiet over the past week. Trucks filled with army soldiers frequently patrol the streets.

CCM and its predecessors have ruled Tanzania for more than 40 years, when mainland Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

Zanzibar has its own president and parliament but shares a union government with the mainland. Zanzibar has jurisdiction over health, education, and other areas, while the mainland controls defense, finance, and others.

On Sunday, Zanzibaris will be electing their president, legislators, and councilors.

Elections on the mainland have been postponed until December because of the death of a running mate. At that time, Zanzibaris will chose their union government representatives.