Tanzania’s ‘sham’ election leaves democracy reeling

6 mins read

(AFP) – Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s landslide re-election has been dismissed as a sham by the opposition and diplomats who say democracy has been dealt a crushing blow in one in all Africa’s most steady nations.

Magufuli’s win with 84 p.c of votes was the most important margin of victory in a presidential race for the reason that first multi-party vote in 1995, and the opposition has alleged huge fraud.

Even earlier than the October 28 vote, few believed it could be free and honest, after Tanzania‘s regular decline into autocracy in his first time period, with arrests and assaults towards the opposition, a ban on political rallies and squeezing of press freedom.

But even seasoned observers have been shocked by what they see as a brazen effort to fully rid the nation of any opposition.

“No election anywhere in the world is perfect but this was just so blatant. They (ruling party) didn’t care. They decided to take all power and they did it in a way that was obvious,” a western diplomat advised AFP on situation of anonymity.

Tanzania‘s democracy really is on very, very shaky ground.”

Aside from a landslide win within the presidential race, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) social gathering took 97 p.c of the 264 seats in parliament, with the most well-liked opposition MPs shedding their seats.

“I expected the opposition would take nearly half of the parliamentary seats this time round but what happened is actually strange. We are almost going back to a one-party system,” stated Professor Gaudence Mpangala of the Ruaha Catholic University in southern Tanzania.

A fruit vendor in Dar es Salaam, talking on situation of anonymity, stated he believed there was “an agenda” behind the huge victory.

“I guess Magufuli will change the constitution to continue staying in power and the easiest way is to have all lawmakers from his party.”

Fraud in entrance of diplomats

In the runup to the vote, opposition gatherings had been teargassed, and opposition Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu — who garnered solely 13 p.c of votes — was banned from the marketing campaign path for seven days for “seditious language”.

Most overseas media had been barred from the nation, and there have been no main native or worldwide observer missions allowed.

However the western diplomat stated that even small “symbolic” observer groups despatched out from embassies had witnessed “ballot stuffing, prevention of party polling agents from getting into poll stations and repeat voting by security officials.”

Bulk textual content messaging, WhatsApp and Twitter have in the meantime been blocked for nearly per week.

The opposition referred to as for mass protests on Monday, prompting a heavy safety presence, and the fast arrests of a number of high leaders, together with the transient detention of Lissu.

“If they think most people support the winners, why should they use police to suppress and threaten people who planned peaceful protest?” stated Ahmed Issa, a resident of Buguruni in Dar es Salaam.

A ruling social gathering supporter in Buguruni, Mashauri Gasper, stated he was pleased with the end result and described the opposition as “divided and disorganised.”

The ruling social gathering couldn’t be reached to touch upon the accusations made by the opposition and observers.

‘Crude strategies’

In a area stricken by leaders ignoring their two-term constitutional limits, and ethnic and political violence, Tanzania has been a peaceable outlier, with a booming economic system averaging six p.c development pre-Covid-19, and one in all Africa’s high vacationer locations.

However issues shifted underneath authoritarian Magufuli. In 2018, he vowed that the CCM — which has dominated since independence in 1961 — might be “in power forever, for eternity”.

Murithi Mutiga, an analyst from the International Crisis Group (ICG) assume tank, stated that whereas the CCM was a historically dominant social gathering, beforehand “at least it cared about its image”.

“Now what we have seen under Magufuli, and what was by all accounts a sham election, is a real regression to a style of politics that is completely alien to Tanzania, one marked by crude methods of vote manipulation but also a thuggish approach by security service in the way they handled the opposition.”

On semi-autonomous Zanzibar, AFP journalists noticed an oppressive presence of safety forces at polling stations, who additionally fired tear gasoline and dwell rounds in opposition neighbourhoods and brutally beat civilians, seemingly at random.

The islands additionally elect their very own president, and opposition ACT-Wazalendo candidate Seif Sharif Hamad was arrested twice through the election and his social gathering spokesman Ismail Jussa mercilessly overwhelmed by safety forces.

“Even the most authoritarian countries in the region do care about their image and they allow at least the pretence of a competitive election,” stated Muthiga.

“In Tanzania they threw that out of the window.”


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.