Following his overwhelming victory in the October 2000 elections President Mkapa and his ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party have made it clear that they are not prepared to tolerate any infringement of the law by members of an aggrieved political opposition unwilling to accept the results of the flawed election in Zanzibar last year (Tanzanian Affairs No 68). After apparently authorising his security forces to use tough measures against opposition Civic United Front (CUF) supporters protesting against the results of the elections, several of these supporters were killed and some hundreds, eventually building up to more than 2,000, including 14 MP’s, fled from Pemba to neighbouring Kenya as refugees. The result has been, as the President has himself admitted, considerable damage to Tanzania’s long standing reputation as a haven of peace, tolerance and unity.

The trouble began with the October 29 elections in Zanzibar which many who witnessed them consider to have been rigged by the ruling CCM party. The elections were also accompanied by police violence against opposition supporters. CUF refused to recognise the new Presidents of Tanzania and Zanzibar and boycotted the Zanzibar House of Representatives and the Tanzanian National Assembly. After they had boycotted three sessions, the Speakers of the two houses, using powers granted to them under the constitutions, expelled CUF’s 15 MP’s in the National Assembly and the 19 CUF members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives. This reduced the number of opposition MP’s in the National Assembly to 15 compared with 238 for CCM (the opposition parties had gained 28% of the total vote in the 2,000 presidential elections).

Two days before the expulsions, the government had rushed through the National Assembly an amendment to the election law, under a certificate of urgency, which stated that where a seat in parliament became vacant for any reason, a by-election could not be held until two years later. The remaining non-CUF opposition MP’s walked out of the Assembly in protest. The reason for the amendment was said to be the need for the government to have time to organise funding for the 34 byelections – these would normally have taken place within 50 days of the vacancies being created. This meant that a major part of the Zanzibar electorate were effectively disfranchised for two years. An opposition leader has challenged the new amendment in court.

However, an indication that the dramatic events of the last three months may not have disturbed the tranquillity of the mainland electorate in its choice of CCM to lead the country, came in five by-elections following the general election all of which were won by CCM.

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