DODOMA – Tanzania's populist President John Magufuli has accepted the official certification of his victory in the East African country's election last week.
Magufuli, 61, was declared the winner with 12.5 million votes, or 84% of votes cast, and is to be sworn into his second term in a ceremony on Thursday.
“During the election there were a few challenges but generally the election was safe and peaceful,” said Magufuli in a statement Sunday. “This is my second and last term in office.”
Magufuli's announcement that he will not seek another term in office is significant, because his ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, has won nearly every seat in parliament, giving it the power to change the country’s constitution to allow Magafuli to run for additional terms. Some party officials have already spoken publicly about taking measures to allow Magafuli to extend his time in power beyond two five-year terms.
In his first five-year term, Magufuli has been criticized for reducing democratic freedoms in Tanzania, one of Africa's most populous countries with 60 million people.
Magufuli's acceptance comes a day after Tanzania’s two main opposition parties called for a re-run of last week's election, alleging widespread fraud and urging people into the streets for an “endless peaceful demonstration” starting Monday. Police warned that stern measures would be taken against anyone who tries to take to the streets.
The joint statement Saturday by the CHADEMA and ACT Wazalendo parties came hours after Magafuli was declared the winner.
“What happened on Oct. 28 was not an election but a butchering of democracy,” CHADEMA chair Freeman Mbowe told reporters, asserting that more than 20 people were killed during the vote. “We demand the election repeated with immediate effect and the dissolving of the national electoral commission.”
He added: “We announce an endless peaceful demonstration beginning Monday until our demands are implemented.”
The opposition has alleged widespread irregularities before and during the vote in the East African nation that some observers say has taken a sharp turn away from democratic ideals in the past five years. Allegations include the rejection of thousands of election observers, a massive slowdown in internet and text-messaging services and ballot box stuffing.
Police have acknowledged scores of arrests around the election but no killings.