Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete dismissed opposition accusations on Wednesday that his CCM party planned to rig a presidential vote next week and warned against violence ahead of the Oct. 25 elections. Addressing a rally in the administrative capital Dodoma, Kikwete accused the opposition of stoking unrest before the parallel presidential, parliamentary and local government polls. “Anyone who participates in violence during the elections will be dealt with,” said Kikwete. “Our security forces will ensure that the elections are peaceful … we will never allow our democracy to be kidnapped.”
Kikwete cannot run after serving two terms in office but the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party’s John Magufuli leads in opinion polls ahead of what is expected to the closest presidential race since Tanzania became independent in 1961.
The main opposition parties have for the first time united behind one presidential candidate, former prime minister Edward Lowassa, whose rallies have drawn thousands of supporters across the East African country.
Lowassa switched to become the opposition coalition’s contender after failing to win the CCM’s candidacy last month. The 62-year-old quit as premier in 2008 over corruption allegations that he denies. Some 22.6 million Tanzanians are registered to vote out of a total population of 47 million.