Jump to navigation

Vol 56 No 22

Published 6th November 2015


Zanzibar faces poll re-run

Although the CCM won two-thirds of votes on the mainland it risks unrest by annulling the election results on the islands

The status of Chama cha Mapinduzi as one of the continent's grand old parties was cemented this week. Victory in the presidential and parliamentary polls on 25 October sees John Pombe Joseph Magufuli as President-elect and CCM set to return to the National Assembly with a solid two-thirds majority (AC Vol 56 No 21, CCM faces close vote). Yet a contested result in the vote for Zanzibar's President has caused a constitutional crisis that strikes at the heart of Tanzania, a union between the Tanzanian Mainland and Zanzibar in which the islands have always sat uneasily. The constitution stipulates that Zanzibar's electors vote for their own president and House of Representatives, in addition to a Union president and parliament. Islands opposition party Civic United Front's (CUF) threat of street demonstrations has receded as talks with CCM continued this week. CCM is unwilling to back down and is calling for a heightened security response and insisting that the election be re-run.

The crisis came on 28 October, when the Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), Jecha Selim Jecha, nullified the election results for the Zanzibar President and House of Representatives. On the day after the poll, 26 October, the CUF presidential candidate, Seif Shariff Hamad, declared that he had won, with 52.8% of the vote. The figure was deemed reliable. The CUF had a good tallying system in place this year (unlike 2010), while the results from 31 of the 54 constituencies published on 27 October bore out the claim of the CUF leader, who has been in politics for some 40 years.

That day, however, troops took over the main counting centre at the Bwawani Hotel, letting nobody in or out for several hours. At one point, the Deputy Chairman of ZEC, Judge Abdul-Hakim Ameir Issa, was forcibly removed from the counting centre. When Jecha nullified the poll on 28 October, he cited irregularities, including voter intimidation, tampering with returns and votes outnumbering registered electors.

After Jecha's unilateral announcement, made without consulting his fellow commissioners, as the law requires, Zanzibar appeared to be on the brink of a conflict such as hasn't been seen since 2001, when security forces killed over 30 people and injured 600, while over 2,000 sought refuge in Kenya. The islands' CCM establishment, almost certainly in consultation with national leaders, illustrated the uncompromising ruthlessness of its determination to hold on to power, amid a continuous build-up of troops from the Mainland.

Ombudsman speaks
In a remarkable move, Tanzania's human rights ombudsman, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), issued a statement on the Thursday after the election clearly indicating that the issues raised were within the powers of the ZEC to resolve without nullifying the results. The Zanzibar Law Society and its Mainland counterpart, the Tanganyika Law Society, both concluded that Jecha's decision was illegal.

CHRAGG is presidentially appointed and its judgement, and those of the legal associations, may well contribute to resolving the affair. The first foreign reaction came from the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam, which was 'gravely alarmed' by Jecha's statement and called for it to be overturned. Other international election observers issued a joint statement that the polls in Zanzibar had been well managed and asked for the specific polling stations where ZEC thought there had been problems. Though less forthright than the US Embassy, this had weight because it included the African Union, East African Community, Southern African Development Community and Commonwealth observer teams led by Mozambique's former President Armando Guebuza and other African statesmen.

On the Mainland, the political configuration remains fundamentally unchanged. CCM support has fallen somewhat, by about four percentage points in the presidential poll, while that of the main opposition parties has risen slightly. For the opposition Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi/Coalition of Defenders of the People's Constitution (Ukawa), the gamble on Edward Lowassa as presidential candidate didn't pay off. Nevertheless, the four-party alliance dominated by Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo and the CUF saw gains that will probably encourage it to continue. Chadema and the CUF now dominate Dar es Salaam, with majorities in the three district councils that govern the city, and six out of ten of its constituencies. In the south, CUF has gained three seats in Lindi Region, including the Mchinga constituency, which will be home to the liquefied natural gas plant, likely to be the country's biggest-ever single investment (AC Vol 56 No 9, LNG plant held up). The north of the country remains solidly Chadema.

By 2 November, the day when Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein's second five-year term was to end, the crisis was coming to a head. The government claimed that he would remain in power until a new president was sworn in. This was rejected by CUF and questioned by former Zanzibar Attorney General Othman Masoud Othman. While talks continued to try to break the impasse, the CUF still held the threat of public demonstrations.

Ironically for the CCM, the impasse in Zanzibar may strengthen Mainland opposition. Ukawa was formed to push for a new constitution to be based on popular consultation led by a former Prime Minister, Justice Joseph Warioba, in 2013 but rejected by a CCM-dominated Constitutional Assembly the following year (AC Vol 56 No 15, Unfinished constitutional business). With gains by both the CUF and Chadema on the Mainland, they may feel emboldened to continue pushing for constitutional reform in the National Assembly and through popular mobilisation. If so, the next five years of politics may look much like the past five years.

The Zanzibar crisis makes the case for the constitutional reform of Union arrangements and a broad cross-section of the political class accepts the need for reconfiguration across the board. If that persists, President Magufuli's top agenda items will look much like those of his predecessor, Jakaya Kikwete. The question is whether Magufuli has the political clout to resolve these issues. He has little political base in the party, having spent all his political career as a technocrat at deputy ministerial and ministerial level.

Famously, after he had won the nomination race, one of his opponents, Professor Mark Mwandosya, said Magufuli had never held a party position, even at branch level, and suggested he was Kikwete's placeman. That charge resonated. Magufuli will depend, at least at first, on the support of Kikwete, who remains CCM Chairman for the next two-and-a-half years. Given that Kikwete is ending his days with his constitutional reform project in tatters and a constitutional crisis in Zanzibar, Magufuli may want to move fast to develop his own political base.


Where scrutiny becomes cyber crime

As soon as John Magufuli was chosen as the presidential candidate for the governing Chama cha Mapinduzi on 12 July, his Wikipedia entry was updated. It's still sparse but that did indicate how seriously the CCM took social media for this election campaign. With up to 20% of the population having internet access and 70% under the age of 30, it made sense.

The party's formal campaign was slick. A special website was set up for the elections, regular email updates reached beyond party members, and well-managed social media accounts for the party and for Magufuli himself presented an image of a modern, switched-on, party machine.

Outside formal channels, social media campaigning on all sides was robust and lively. Anonymous sock puppet accounts popped up everywhere, while viral video clips ranging from presidential candidate Edward Lowassa calling for a Lutheran president to Magufuli doing press-ups on stage in Karagwe kept people outraged and entertained in equal measure.

Yet the internet's promise of better information and of well-informed citizens preventing electoral dirty tricks remains as elusive as ever. In the days following the elections, over 200 people were arrested under the controversial Cybercrime Act, passed in March. Some 191 of them were activists, staff and volunteers from the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, who were picked up on election night and their equipment seized.

They were suspected of tallying results in Dar es Salaam, based on information from agents in the constituencies across the country that was entered into a centralised results management system. In most democracies, this is standard party practice. In Tanzania, however, it can be an offence under the Cybercrime Act, under which some of the detainees were charged.

The next strike came four days later when a civil society election monitoring centre was raided and 38 arrests made. Again, the issue was suspected tallying of election results. The centre was run by the Tanzania Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation. Ironically, two days before the raid, the TACCEO Coordinator, Helen Kijo-Bisimba of the Legal and Human Rights Centre, declared that their observers were happy overall with the polls and she even condemned Seif Shariff Hamad for pre-empting the announcement of results in Zanzibar. In the same week, the popular political discussion forum Jamii Forums came under a sustained Distributed Denial of Service attack for five days. Jamii Forums was one of the few sources of reliable information about parliamentary results. The Cybercrime Act is rumoured to have been referred to as 'The Jamii Forums Bill' when being drafted in the Attorney General's office earlier in the year.

Specific incidents may recede but the message has been sent. Under Magufuli's government, Tanzanian civil society activists will think twice about using the internet to gather and share information and analysis.




Related Articles

CCM faces close vote

Demands for change resonate widely ahead of the elections but history and organisation favour the incumbents

In the presidential, parliamentary and local elections on 25 October, the governing Chama cha Mapinduzi party faces its toughest political challenge since Independence in 1961. Thi...

LNG plant held up

The immediate future of the liquefied natural gas project may rest with one of Africa's richest people, Tanzanian businessman Mohammed Gulam Dewji, whose fortune is estimated at ov...

Sour fate of sugar project

The government claims it wants self-sufficiency in sugar but importers seem once more to have triumphed

The demise of the sugar production company Bagamoyo EcoEnergy (BEE) after millions of dollars of investment over ten years is being seen as much as a test of President John Maguful...


Praising the government's private sector growth initiatives earlier this year at the prestigious United States' Yale University, East Africa tycoon Reginald Mengi stressed the need...