African election observers are upbeat about Sunday's scheduled elections in Tanzania, saying meetings with stakeholders in the country have been positive.
Arthur Moody Awori, leader of the East African Community observer mission, said his team had received assurances of readiness in meetings with the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania, political parties and civil society organizations.
The former Kenyan vice president also called for citizens to remain peaceful and abide by the electoral laws as they prepare to vote in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
Officials said the observers were sent to Tanzania to promote democracy in accordance with the principles of the regional bloc, which seeks to boost economic integration in East Africa.
Awori said his team of poll observers had been monitoring the preparedness of the electoral commission as well as the atmosphere leading to Sunday’s vote.
“We have talked with the National Electoral Commission, and they have assured us that all the matters that go into making the citizens cast their vote are all in place," he said. "We have talked to the security officers, and they, too, have told us that they are ready to ensure that there is security everywhere.”
Sunday will mark Tanzania's fifth election since the country gained independence from former colonial power Britain.
Awori said the political situation was calm and that that the observers had yet to see anything that could be of concern. He attributed the maturity shown by Tanzanians to their experience in conducting past elections.
Analysts expect the presidential election to be the most competitive, following the defection of high-profile members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party to the opposition party, Chadema. The defectors include former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who will be leading the opposition alliance known as UKAWA in the presidential vote.
Opposition supporters have expressed concern about the independence of the electoral commission. They have demanded to know whether the electoral commission chairman will be able to declare the winner, should the opposition leader come out ahead. Commission Chairman Damian Lubuva has said the law requires him to declare the outcome of the election irrespective of the winner.
Awori said there is a need for Tanzanians to ensure a peaceful atmosphere during the election.
“My message first and foremost is to keep the peace," he said. "Secondly, to observe the laws of the country, and thirdly to really appreciate the importance of their vote, that they have listened to all the candidates, [and] that they have got to choose the candidate who will fulfill their aspirations and who will be able to bring their interest to fruition.”