Uchaguzi 2020 Going into the 2020 Tanzania polls: What are the stakes?

Simon Martha Mkina

Investigative Journalist
Sep 5, 2020
17
75
Tanzanian citizens will go to the polls on October 28, 2020, to elect the President, Members of Parliament (MPs) and local Councilors. For close to five years now, Tanzania has been preparing herself for the constitutionally mandatory general elections.

Hopes by Tanzania’s ruling political party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), that the elections would be easy rides are waning after two bigwigs in the political space entered the presidential race.

CCM’s top cadres and strapping supporters started chanting landslide victory from late 2017- after two years of President John Magufuli in power, without knowing that former Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe and outspoken critic, Tundu Lissu would join the political race. CCM had been talking about securing 96% victory in the election for the reasons that President Magufuli has done “wonders” in his two years in high office. For the past 5 years, the incumbent president put up road networks; cancelled school fees and reinstated the then dying Air Tanzania – by buying 11 new passenger planes. However, the entrance of Membe and Lissu has changed their perceptions and political calculations.

Obviously, the stakes are high to every contesting party and their candidates, but will this election be free, fair and transparent?

This article highlights issues relating to the legislation instruments, political disputes related to election and their management, availability of the code of conduct governing elections, existence of registered and vibrant political parties, as well as the media’s role so far.

Here are some perspectives on the performance of political parties in the previous presidential and parliamentary elections, participation of the electorate in previous elections, political atmosphere ahead of the 2020 elections and the capacity of the electoral management body to manage this year’s election.

Democratic political elections constitute an important element in liberal democracy. They are a viable means of ensuring the orderly process of leadership succession and change and an instrument of legitimizing political authority. Thus, the failure of free, fair, transparent and periodic elections or their absence largely defines the predominance of political dictatorships. This test can be applied to the United Republic of Tanzania which comprises Tanzania Mainland (formerly known as Tanganyika) and Zanzibar.

Before the attainment of Tanganyika Independence in 1961 and prior to the Revolution of Zanzibar in 1964, the Political System was multiparty. After the independence of Tanganyika and the revolution in Zanzibar, the United Republic of Tanzania adopted a single-party system and the country was under the rule of one Party, TANU which later became Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

In 1992, a Presidential Commission known as the ‘Nyalali Commission’ was given the task of collecting views of Tanzanians on whether or not Tanzania should continue with single-party system. The Presidential Commission recommended the multiparty system and the formation of a National Electoral Commission which would be responsible for conducting elections. The recommendations were accepted by the Government.

Following the re-introduction of multi-party system in Tanzania in 1992, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 was amended to cater for the same. The Political Parties Act of 1992 was thereafter enacted to regulate the formation and registration of political parties. The National Electoral Commission was also established under Article 74(1) of the said Constitution to supervise and coordinate the conduct of presidential, parliamentary and councilors’ elections.

For these reasons, in 2020, Tanzania mainland will hold another general election to vote into office the President of the united republic and Members of Parliament and Zanzibar will hold an election for installing the President of the Revolutionary Council and members of the House of Representatives.

Thus, from a constitutional and legal perspective, it is expected that, this should be an election where all citizens and candidates from all parties will be able to gather peacefully, express their opinions, and campaign on an equal basis. As a pre-condition for this to happen, it is also expected that, there should be a rapid and transparent registration of voters, an independent electoral commission, and the early accreditation of credible national and international election observers.

Past popular participation in elections

It is promising to note that, there has been popular participation in the electoral and democratic process in the previous elections (African Elections Database and statement by the NEC Chairperson). Evidence shows that voter registration has been on a steady rise, where, from 1995 to 2020. Figures show that; there were 8,929,969 registered voters in 1995; 10,088,484 registered voters in 2000; 16,401,694 registered voters in 2005; 20,137,303 registered voters in 2010; 23,161,440 registered voters in 2015; and 29,188,347 registered voters in 2020.

However, within the same period, actual voter turnout did not increase to correspond with registered voters wavering between 43% and 84% across the period, as the following percentages of turnout for the respective years show: 77% in 1995; 84% in 2000; 72% in 2005; 43% in 2010; and 67% in 2015.

Table 1.0: voters’ registration and turnout from 1995 to 2020



[TD valign="top"]
Category
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
Election Year
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"][/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1995
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2000
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2005
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2010
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2015
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2020
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"] Registered Voters [/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
8,929,969
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"] 10,088,484 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 16,401,694 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 20,137,303 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 23,161,440 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 29,188,347 [/TD]

[TD valign="top"] Total Votes [/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
6,846,681
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"] 8,517,598 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 11,875,927 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 8,626,283 [/TD][TD valign="top"] 15,596,110 [/TD][TD valign="top"][/TD]

[TD valign="top"] Voter Turnout [/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
76.7%
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
84.4%
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
72.4%
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
42.8%
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
67.3%
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"][/TD]
Sources: African Elections Database. Statement by NEC Chairperson and Mathematical Modeling by using Microsoft Toolkit for Linear Regression Analysis.

Performance of Political Parties in previous presidential elections

Between 1995 and 2015, the number of political parties participating in presidential elections has been growing from four political parties in 1995, to eight political parties in 2015. CCM has always been a dominant party in each and every presidential election having cumulative votes of 33,173,337 for the past five electoral years out of 49,642,762 (66.82%). The dominant opposition political party CHADEMA, despite steadily gaining strength in presidential elections for the past five electoral years garnered 18.16% of the cumulative votes.

Table 2.0: Cumulative presidential election results from 1995 to 2015



[TD valign="top"] No. [/TD][TD valign="bottom"] Political Party [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
Cumulative votes from 1995-2015
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
Percentage
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
1.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] CCM [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
33,173,337
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
66.82%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
2.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] CHADEMA [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
9,013,545
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
18.16%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
3.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] CUF [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
3,770,842
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
7.60%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
4.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] NCCR [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1,890,823
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
3.81%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
5.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] TLP [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
747,676
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1.51%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
6.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] UDP [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
609,410
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1.23%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
7.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] PPT [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
115,716
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.23%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
8.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] ACT [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
98,763
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.20%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
9.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] ADC [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
66,049
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.13%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
10.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] CUU [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
49,256
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.10%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
11.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] DP [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
31,083
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.06%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
12.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] NLD [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
21,574
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.04%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
13.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] MAKINI [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
17,070
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.03%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
14.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] SAU [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
16,414
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.03%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
15.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] UPDP [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
13,176
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.03%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
16.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"] NRA [/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
8,028
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.02%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"][/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
TOTAL
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
49,642,762
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
100.00%
[/TD]
Sources: African Elections Database, statement by NEC Chairperson.


Performance of political parties in previous parliamentary elections

From 1995 when the first multiparty democratic election was held again in Tanzania to 2015, nine political parties have succeeded to get parliamentary representatives through direct voting and special seats for women. In this period, there have been 1,599 cumulative seats which were distributed among these parties.

The dominant party in the parliament has always been CCM followed by CHADEMA and CUF. Their cumulative relative dominances are shown in Table 3.0 below.

Table 3.0: Past political parties’ performance in parliamentary elections


Political Party
Number of Seats per year
1995
TOTAL

[TD valign="top"]
No.
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
Cumulative seats 1995-2015
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2000
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2005
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2010
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
2015
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
Votes
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
%age
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
1.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
CCM
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
214
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
258
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
275
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
259
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
253
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1,259
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
78.70%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
2.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
CHADEMA
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
4
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
5
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
11
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
48
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
70
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
138
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
8.60%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
3.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
CUF
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
28
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
17
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
31
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
36
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
42
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
137
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
8.60%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
4.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
NCCR
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
19
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
4
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
25
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1.60%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
5.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
CUF
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
22
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
22
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1.40%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
6.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
UDP
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
4
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
4
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
10
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.60%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
7.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
TLP
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
5
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
7
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.40%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
8.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
ACT
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
0
[/TD]
[TD valign="top"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
0.10%
[/TD]

[TD valign="top"]
9.
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
269
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
312
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
319
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
349
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
367
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
1,599
[/TD]
[TD valign="bottom"]
100.0%
[/TD]
Sources: African Elections Database plus arithmetic manipulations.

From the results above it is obvious that, no strong opposition has so far emerged in parliament in a way that gives hard time to the ruling party. This is the case because; when the opposition parties are combined, they secure collective dominance of 21.3% of the cumulative total seats between 1995 and 2015. Thus, opposition parties are no more than channels that provide access to parliament with little or no influence on legislative processes. As such there is a need for the opposition to pull up their socks.

Political atmosphere ahead of 2020 elections

For various reasons, the political atmosphere ahead of the 2020 elections has been greeted with mixed feelings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the electorate perception and preparation towards the elections. The government’s policy of the pandemic-related information non-disclosure has left the public and the world unsure of the status of the pandemic in the country.

Given that, one of the key best practices of avoiding the spread of the virus is complying with the principle of social distancing, which is directly contradicted by electoral public rallies, a good number of the electorate have developed a neutral attitude toward the public rallies. But again, with the continued election campaigns, huge gatherings have been observed; no social distancing, no masks – and life is as usual, thanks to the government stand that – “divine powers have kicked out coronavirus.”

It is no secret that, for many years, Tanzania has shined as a beacon of peace and stability in a continent characterized by political instability. Recent political events since President John Magufuli assumed office in 2015, speak a different message. Within these years, there is credible evidence to suggest that Tanzania is now on the brink of political crisis. President Magufuli and his party, CCM have embarked on an organized assault against voices of dissent through a systematic program for avoiding critical voices.

For example, in 2016 the president banned opposition political rallies and meetings, arguing that the country’s focus should be on implementing the CCM manifesto – as it has mandate to achieve promises, since then, opposition politicians have faced unprecedented stalking. The police have also raided opposition gatherings and used arrests to break up public and indoors meetings.

In January 2020, President Magufuli assured the nation and the international community that the 2020 elections would be free, fair, and transparent. However, very few voters believe the president’s declaration. For many, the 2020 elections are already a stolen verdict.

The capacity of the electoral management body

Tanzanians are going to the polls amid cries from the opposition for an independent electoral management body. For them, the current National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Zanzibar Election Commission (ZEC) are not fit for the job.

The opposition has been pressing for reforms toward Independence of the NEC and the ZEC from the state; reliable funding of elections; continuous voters’ registration; fair process related to the nomination of candidates; strict management of electoral violence; improvement of procedures governing voting, vote counting and declaration of results; provision of comprehensive voter and civic education across the electoral management cycle in order to boost voter turnout; and better framework for the management of electoral disputes by making sure that NEC and ZEC electoral decisions should be open to challenge in courts of law.

Opposition political parties cry that none of these challenges has been addressed so far, while the election bodies are claiming to have done the necessary to accommodate them. In Tanzania, so far there is no legal mechanism instituted that would allow parties or individuals to seek redress if they dispute or disagree with the announced presidential candidate winner.

National mechanisms to redress election related disputes

In the previous elections, there has been election related disputes or disagreement; for example, in October 2015, during the Tanzania’s general elections in Zanzibar, initial results suggested the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had won on the island when the electoral commission suddenly annulled the process.

The opposition claimed that alleged concerns over irregularities were fabricated and boycotted the re-run in 2016. The CCM candidate therefore won easily with 91.4% and presided over the island ever since. Analysts seem to predict that the same might happen in 2020.

The only successful adjustment in this regard has been the creation of the Code of Conduct for Governing Elections. It is a governing instrument legally recognized by political stakeholders, government and other political actors prior, during and after elections.

It provides for committees at ward level to hear and determine complaints for councilors election; constituency committee to hear and determine parliamentary election complaints about violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct; national committee to hear and determine complaints about violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct by presidential election and also hear and determine appeals from constituency committees; and an appeal committee to hear and determine appeals from the national committee. The Committees can sanction those who will be found guilty of violating the Electoral Code of Conduct.

However, the Code of Conduct for Governing Elections is claimed by opposition and critics to just be a morally binding document as its implementation much depends on the good will of the stakeholders.

Tanzania and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG)

Despite its importance in democracy, Tanzania has never signed or ratified The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) since its inception on January 2007. There are no clear reasons why. Dr. Lenny Kasoga, former lecturer of the University of Dar es Salaam said it is now high time for Tanzania to be part of ACDEG as it helps a lot for the countries that are preparing to hold elections.

“It has been noticed that the source of problems in disputed elections in Africa has been weaknesses in the electoral processes, which could be easily contained when a country adheres to ACDEG compliance mechanism,” he added.

Media landscape

For the past five years, the media has neither been independent nor vibrant, as such it is unlikely to impact the upcoming elections. Since 2015, the government has taken an approach that seems to cow media freedom and freedom of expression by passing strict laws such as the Cybercrimes Act, Media Services Act, Online Content Regulations and the Statistics Act. Critics claim that the intent of these repressive measures is to criminalize dissent and make any form of criticism treacherous.

At the same time, investigative newspapers have been banned, several journalists and activists have either disappeared, faced harassment or been detained on trumped up charges in courts. Azory Gwanda, a Mwananchi Communications freelance journalist from Coastal Region has gone missing since 2017, while some senior editors are in court.

The Tanzanian media now largely avoids coverage of critical stories which has allowed the government’s actions to go unchallenged, and may allow things to go unchecked during the pending general elections.

Conclusions and recommendations

In conclusion, it may be said that, a major challenge facing Tanzania’s democracy today is lacking viable opposition parties. The opposition is currently suffering from problems of disunity; some parties are having poor organizational skills and lacks the capacity to organise and mobilise. Lacks innovative and alternative policies; and it is faced with the difficulty of establishing its presence in a political system that is dominated by the ruling party. Thus, for Tanzania’s multiparty system to institutionalize, it is evident that political parties as entities need an organizational and technical overhaul.

Moreover, the legislative and constitutional frameworks that govern the institutionalization of political parties need to be revised. In an attempt to impede the marginalization of political parties by the ruling party, both entities need to find a mechanism for constructive engagement and to move away from adversarial politics through joint collaborative initiatives.



*This article is published under ‘The Africa We Want’ project which is Mobilizing Civil Society Support for Implementation of the African Governance Architecture and is being implemented with funding support from the European Commission.
 

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