- Associated Press - Sunday, October 31, 2010

ARUSHA, Tanzania | Tanzania’s ruling party, which has been in power for close to half a century, faced an energized opposition in national elections Sunday after corruption scandals that have undermined the government’s popularity.

Opinion polls suggest Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is still likely to win re-election, though one survey showed his opponent leading, though not by enough to avoid a runoff vote. It’s a departure from 2005, when Mr. Kikwete won more than 80 percent of ballots cast.

He faced first-time contender Wilbrod Slaa of the main opposition Party of Democracy and Development, known by its Kiswahili acronym, Chadema.

The state-owned broadcaster Tanzania Broadcasting Corp. reported people lined up as early as 5 a.m. across the country to cast their votes Sunday and that most polling stations opened on time.

Later, the station reported that most polling stations closed on time at 4 p.m. Calls to the chairman and spokesman of the National Electoral Commission went unanswered.

Peace Nyankojo, a pharmacist, told the Associated Press that voting went smoothly at her polling station in this northwestern town of Arusha, which is a tourism center in Tanzania.

“I had no hassles in the voting exercise. Everybody waited in a queue and exercised their constitutional right without any intimidation,” she said.

Happy Lyatuu, a mother of three children and unemployed, said she voted for the opposition Chadema candidate because she believed the party’s promise to implement policies to tackle poverty.

“I have decided to vote for Chadema because I believe that they will be able to find a job for me to feed my children,” Ms. Lyatuu, 29, said.

The governing Revolutionary Party, known by its Kiswahili abbreviation, CCM, has governed Tanzania since the country gained independence from Britain in 1961.

Mr. Kikwete and the governing party are seeking a new mandate to improve and expand infrastructure, increase foreign investment and fund and expand health programs. But Mr. Kikwete also is fighting perceptions that under his watch, high-level corruption has increased. Mr. Kikwete has said he does not tolerate corruption.

A 2008 independent audit by an international firm found the central bank had paid out more than $120 million to 22 local firms, many of which were shell companies that are legally registered but did not transact any business. Mr. Kikwete fired the governor of the central bank at the time.

The other scam saw a parliamentary committee report that Tanzania signed a $172.5 million contract with a ghost U.S.-based company to supply emergency-power generators to help the country cope with 2006 power shortages. The committee found the company did not exist, and the generators came late or not at all. The prime minister and two other Cabinet ministers resigned after the 2008 parliamentary report.

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