by Ben Taylor
Magufuli and CCM win big in disputed election
The various presidential, parliamentary and local government elections that took place in Tanzania on October 28, 2020, resulted in a resounding victory for the ruling party CCM and President Magufuli, though opposition parties cried foul, with some strong evidence to back up their claims.
Results as announced
In the vote for President of Tanzania, President Magufuli was announced as the winner with 84% of the vote, well ahead of the leading opposition party candidate, Tundu Lissu of Chadema, with 13%. None of the other 13 candidates achieved more than 1%. President Magufuli’s vote share rose from 58% in 2015. 14.8 million votes were cast, out of 29.8 million registered voters, representing a turnout of 50.7%.
In the parliamentary elections, out of 264 constituency seats, CCM candidates won in 256, leaving just four constituency MPs representing ACT Wazalendo, three from CUF and one from Chadema. This includes just two seats were won by opposition candidates on mainland Tanzania – one each from CUF and Chadema.
This almost total wipe-out of opposition MPs included several prominent voices in parliament and in public debate over the past five years. Freeman Mbowe, Joseph Mbilinyi, Halima Mdee, Ester Bulaya, Rev Peter Msigwa and Godbless Lema of Chadema, Zitto Kabwe of ACT and James Mbatia of NCCR Mageuzi all lost their seats.
In addition, votes cast for the party entitled Chadema to a further 19 “special seats” MPs – nominated women MPs allocated proportion to the votes cast for each party’s presidential candidate. In the same way, CCM was allocated 95 special seats MPs. Overall, CCM has 351 seats (93%) and opposition parties have a combined 27. In comparison, after the election in 2015, opposition parties held 114 seats.
Both ACT and Chadema initially declared that their MPs would not take up their seats in parliament, in protest at what they described as a fraudulent election (see below). Later, after heated debates within the parties, most of these MPs have taken up their seats.
For President of Zanzibar, the CCM candidate, Dr Hussein Mwinyi was announced the winner with 76% of the vote, with the ACT Wazalendo candidate, Maalimu Seif Sharif Hamad in second place with 20%. This ended a run of Presidential elections in Zanzibar that were either annulled (2015), boycotted by major opposition parties (2000, 2016), or where the CCM Presidential candidates in Zanzibar won extremely narrow victories (1995, 2005, 2010).
Grounds for dispute
Even before election day, opposition parties disputed the process and there were serious grounds for concern. As noted in the previous issue of Tanzanian Affairs, the playing field was far from level during the campaign.
Then, in the days immediately before the election ACT Wazalendo reported that police on Zanzibar had shot and killed at least nine opposition supporters who suspected soldiers of distributing pre-marked ballots, and that more than 100 people were arrested. Similarly, Chadema claimed CCM officials had shot dead two Chadema supports on the mainland. Tanzania’s inspector general of police, Simon Sirro, denied any deaths.
Maalim Seif, the ACT Presidential candidate for Zanzibar was arrested on the morning of election day as he went to cast his vote. Both Chadema and ACT continued to dispute the process as votes were counted and results announced.
Zitto Kabwe, the leader of ACT-Wazalendo, said there were reports of fraud from constituencies across the country, and that party workers had found thousands of ballot papers and large numbers of returning officers’ statements of results that appeared to have been filled in before the vote. One bag was seized when it fell off a lorry. “It was not an election, and the people of Tanzania will pay the price. The international community should not recognise this election or the legitimacy of the government,” Kabwe told The Guardian.
Tundu Lissu, Chadema’s candidate for president said it “was not an election …, it was just a gang of people who have just decided to misuse state machinery to cling to power”. His party alleged ballot boxes were tampered with after its agents were stopped from entering polling stations.
The two parties demanded fresh elections, after denouncing the vote as fraudulent. In a joint news conference, they also called for mass protests.
Seif Sharif Hamad, the opposition ACT-Wazalendo’s presidential candidate in Zanzibar, and other leaders were arrested, his party said, after he called for protests. The party also reported that a member of the party’s Central Committee Ismail Jussa Ladhu was badly beaten by security forces in Zanzibar.
The National Electoral Commission denied allegations of fake ballots, saying they were unofficial and unsubstantiated. Under Tanzanian law, elections results declared by the commission cannot be challenged in court.
A combination of the Coronavirus pandemic, pre-existing tensions between the government and the diplomatic community, and a government decision to discourage international observers meant there were fewer observer missions present in Tanzania than in previous elections. The only mission in country represented the East African Community, and concluded that “generally, the Mission is of the view that the Election process was conducted in a credible manner.”
In contrast, other international assessments were damning. The United States Embassy issued a statement noting “serious doubts” about the credibility of the polls, citing “credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation”. The EU noted the disruption of social media, claims of opposition candidates that they did not benefit from a level playing field during the electoral process, limited possibilities for electoral observation, and concerning reports on irregularities. They concluded that “these serious allegations have an impact on the transparency and overall credibility of the process”.
The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, gave a statement expressing concern at “widespread allegations of interference in the country’s elections, including pre-filled ballot boxes and party agents being denied entry to polling stations. We are also deeply troubled by the reports of violence and heavy-handed policing in the elections, including the arrest of opposition political leaders.”
There was also an East African independent election monitoring initiative, Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW), formed as “one of the last few remedies available in the absence of independent oversight of the elections in Tanzania,” designed to bring regional and international civil society and others together to critically debate key developments as they unfold. They noted that the electoral commission “does not pass the basic tests of an independent and impartial election management body”, and that the vote “marked the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credentials”. They concluded that the process “falls way below the acceptable international standards” for holding free and fair elections.
The initial response to the elections from opposition parties was – as seen above – to cry foul. They also called for nationwide protests. Hampered in part by widespread disruption to internet access that remained an issue, intermittently, for several weeks, and deterred by heavy police presence on the streets, this protest movement failed to materialise in any significant way.
Tundu Lissu sought refuge at the German Embassy in Dar es Salaam after receiving death threats. He then left the country, with the assistance of diplomats, and has returned to exile in Belgium, where he previously spent several years receiving treatment for gunshot wounds after an assassination attempt in 2017.
Moments before his flight departed for Brussels on Tuesday, Lissu spoke with reporters. “Diplomats from Germany, Belgium, the United States and other countries have negotiated with the Tanzanian government to allow me to leave the country safely,” he said. “The threats against me kept increasing after the Tanzanian presidential election and I decided to leave the country.”
“I am also going to Europe with a political mission,” he added. I want to speak with the international community about what happened during the recent election, and what it means for Tanzania and the rest of the world”
Opposition parties struggled with the dilemma of whether engaging with the new administration would legitimise the election. Initially, both Chadema and ACT Wazalendo leaderships announced that their MPs would not take up their seats in parliament, but these decisions were later revised. In Zanzibar, where the constitution requires that the two largest parties form a national unity government, ACT debated whether to join CCM, and finally concluded that they should do so, for the sake of peace – “to give dialogue a chance”. As such, in addition to the swearing in of Hussein Mwinyi as the new President of Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad was sworn in as First Vice President of Zanzibar on December 8th.
President Magufuli was sworn in for a second term as President of Tanzania on November 5th.
The prospects have faded for either an opposition-led protest movement taking shape or international pressure forcing concessions by the government. Instead, these elections look set to mark a serious further deterioration in Tanzania’s relations with those parts of the international community that value democracy, and the country now faces a new political landscape going forwards.
Most obviously, parliamentary debates and scrutiny look set to be significantly weakened, with fewer opposition MPs present and with experienced and outspoken figures such as Zitto Kabwe and Freeman Mbowe now lacking a platform. In turn, this will weaken other critical voices in the media, civil society, and reduce space for public debate still further. For the next five years at least, then, there would seem to be little prospect of a democratic recovery.
Beyond that, the great uncertainty remains the question of whether President Magufuli will seek to amend the constitution in order to remove or extend term limits. Currently, the constitution places a two-term limit on presidents, and President Magufuli has always insisted that he has no desire or intention to change this. However, observers have noted that senior party figures close to the President have voiced the idea several times over the past five years. CCM’s overwhelming dominance in the new parliament would also make such an amendment relatively easy to push through.
When President Nyerere stepped down in 1985, he established a precedent for peaceful and orderly transition of power. Presidential term limits were brought in, and four successive transitions since appeared to demonstrate that in Tanzania this constitutional mechanism would be respected. This could well be tested over the coming years as never before.