Tanzania Elections Watch final observation report on the general election held in Tanzania on October 28th, 2020 finding: Not Free and Not Fair. Tanzania identifies itself as a democracy. Its tradition of competitive political contest and inclusion, built since the restoration of multipartyism 25 years ago, has recently suffered severe setbacks because of shrinking civic space and a low tolerance for political plurality. The 81,567 polling stations on Mainland Tanzania and 1,412 in Zanzibar opened at 7 am and closed at 4 pm, as stipulated in the election regulations. – Tanzania Elections WatchTanzania Elections Watch's final observation report on the general election held in Tanzania on October 28th, 2020 Finding: Not Free and Not Fair. Click To Tweet
Although the law requires political parties and candidates to be authorized to enter the polling stations, monitors and observers reported that many opposition political party agents were unable to access the stations. The voter turnout was 50.72 percent — lower than the 67.34 percent announced by the National Electoral Commission in 2015.
The Zanzibar Electoral Commission arranged early voting on the island to allow security personnel and those performing election duties to cast ballots on the eve of Election Day. The National Elections Commission (NEC) registered 7,043,247 new voters, updated information for some 3,225,778 and expunged 16,707 entries from the 2015 register. The constitutions of Tanzania and Zanzibar provide that not less than 30 percent of the members of the National Assembly and the House of Representatives shall be women, nominated from lists submitted by political parties in proportion to the share of the vote obtained in the elections.
The three main political parties in the 2020 election nominated 102 women out of 672 candidates vying for parliamentary seats, a 15 percent increase from the previous election, but there was little evidence that the Registrar of Political Parties had facilitated the inclusion and effective participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities. Notably, women political candidates in the elections were physically assaulted, verbally attacked, arrested, and harassed by security agents throughout the year, thus constraining their participation.
Introduction: About Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW)
Tanzania’s October 28, 2020, General Election was conducted in a severely constricted political atmosphere, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw global restrictions on travel and therefore low deployment of observation missions.
Tanzania stopped reporting Covid-19 cases on April 29, 2020, with the government declaring the country “coronavirus-free.” Additionally, restrictions were placed on the media prohibiting the publication of information on Covid- 19 without the approval of the authorities. President Magufuli’s posture of denial of Covid-19 meant that no health-related safety restrictions were imposed during the campaign period.
Tanzania Elections Watch is a regional initiative of civil society organizations and distinguished experts on various aspects of human rights, democratic governance and the rule of law from East and Southern Africa
Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) consisted of two (2) organs: A Panel of Eminent Persons at the pinnacle of the initiative and a technical secretariat.
Against the dearth of independent observation and monitoring for the October 28, 2020 elections, civil society organizations established the Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW), a regional initiative to shed light on the electoral context. The initiative, organized and coordinated by Kituo Cha Katiba: Eastern Africa Centre for Constitutional Development (KcK) and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), sought to plug the gaps evident in the exclusion of domestic observers from the electoral process and to provide oversight for the elections.
Political Context and Pre-election Environment
The 2020 General Election was Tanzania’s 12th since independence and the sixth competitive poll since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992. The party of independence, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), had won the elections in 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015.
Previous elections had been disputed over the absence of transparency and inclusivity. In 2015, regional and international observation missions stopped short of declaring that year’s elections as not being free, fair, or credible.
President Magufuli asserted control over CCM and launched a crackdown on political opposition. The State flagrantly violated fundamental rights, including the freedoms of assembly, association and dissemination of information, which constrained political participation.
Most election observation missions had restricted their observation to Election Day alone and were therefore unable to assess the entire electoral process. Notably, that year’s Zanzibar election results were annulled and the opposition Ukawa coalition, which had been leading in the tally, boycotted the repeat election the following year.
The Constitution, laws and institutions that also promulgate rules and regulations constitute the legal framework that governs elections in Tanzania. Tanzania has also acceded to international covenants on elections that form part of the country’s governance and legal framework for elections.
Tanzania has acceded to eight international instruments that establish standards for free, fair and credible elections, among them:
- The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol)
- The AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections
- The East African Community (EAC) Principles for Election Observation, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Elections
- The SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections
- The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
- The Commonwealth Charter
Elections are the ultimate opportunity for citizens to exercise their democratic will in choosing their leaders. The freedom to freely elect their government is foundational and consequential on all other rights. Any impediments, restrictions or actions that suppress this right are a grave violation of not only Tanzania’s Constitution but also of universally accepted norms and covenants to which the country is a party.
The National Electoral Commission began updating the BVR in all regions of Tanzania, starting with Arusha and Kilimanjaro on June 18, 2019 and completed in Dar es Salaam on February 23, 2020. The National Election Act requires the NEC to review the voter register twice during an electoral cycle, i.e. in between five years from one election to the next. The exercise used different systems, including:
Voters Registration System: This was included in the BVR kits and used to register new voters, update their information and expunge the names of those who had lost eligibility.
Register System (RS): This system is used to receive and populate the voters’ information collected from the registration centers. It is also used to print the preliminary BVR.
Voter Interaction System: This is used to verify voter information when displaying the preliminary BVR. It is supported by other systems that use mobile phones through a special SMS code *152*00# hosted on the NEC website (www.nec.go.tz)
Automated Fingerprints Identification System: This system is used to populate voters’ fingerprints and flag double registration. According to NEC, 7,043,247 new voters were registered (which is 30.41 % of those registered in the 2015 General Election) on the roll. Another 3,225,778 updated their information (which was 13.93 % of those registered in 2015) while 16,707 voters were expunged from the register (which is 0.07 % of those registered in 2015).
Estimates place the population of people living with disabilities in Tanzania at 4.5 million. For decades, people with disabilities have borne the brunt of the abuse, lack of education, and job and livelihood opportunities.
Election Day Observation
Returning officers distributed election equipment and material to the presiding officers as per the Election Regulations, which also set out the voting procedure for persons with disabilities and persons who cannot read. A presiding officer was in charge at each polling station and was supported by polling assistants. Although the law requires that political parties and candidates be authorized to enter the polling stations, monitors and observers reported that many opposition political party agents were not able to access the stations.
There was heavy army and police deployment in many of the polling stations in Zanzibar and Pemba. In constituencies in Pemba, for example, a number of people had been shot dead as they tried to unmask the ballot stuffing in Pemba. 11 people were reportedly killed by gunshot on election night, prompting massive protests on social media, with the #ZanzibarLivesMatter hashtag trending on Twitter.
As social media became a critical space for expression and organising, the authorities imposed an Internet chokehold (slowing down of the Internet) on Mainland Tanzania and in Zanzibar. Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media platforms reported shutdowns. Twitter had warned the previous day against shutting down its platforms, saying that it was “hugely harmful and violated basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet”.
Mobile phone service providers limited use of short text messages and voice calls on the eve of the elections, which frustrated the free flow of information and communication especially through short messaging services.
Generally, the conditions during the October 28, 2020 election fell far short of the international standards for a free, fair, and credible election, see Statement by TEW Panel on Observations made during the Election Day in Tanzania. Only half of all the registered voters cast ballots in the election. Given the demographic structure of the permanent voters’ register, in which 57% of electors were between the ages of 18 and 35 years, it is self-evident that the election produced a suppressed youth voice.
Post-Election Context: Political consolidation
Although the election results awarded Dr. Mwinyi 76 percent of the vote, he invited ACT-Wazalendo party leader Seif Sharif Hamad to join the Government of National Unity as Vice President. The rapprochement in Tanzania will doubtless reduce down political tensions and create opportunities for undertaking urgently needed governance reforms, but they leave the opposition in a weak position.
Previous reconciliation efforts, especially in Zanzibar, have not delivered on reforms and concerns remain that political accommodation in the aftermath of putative elections could breed a culture of incumbent parties delivering defective elections in the expectation that they will offer to share the spoils of government with their dissatisfied opponents.
The 2020 elections were conducted in a challenging security environment. Between the election date and November 11, 2020, security forces killed at least 22 people. Opposition politicians and civil society groups accused security forces of using excessive force indiscriminately, including live ammunition, to disperse protesters who were demonstrating against the NEC declared election results in Zanzibar and on the mainland.
ACT-Wazalendo reported that nine (9) of its members had been shot and killed by police in Pemba. These killings allegedly took place on the eve of the elections. At the close of the elections, the party reported a further four (4) deaths, bringing the total toll of ACT Wazalendo members killed by the police on the archipelago to 13. Inspector-General of Police, Simon Sirro, however, said that only three (3) people had lost their lives in Tanzania during the violence that followed the elections.
No known accountability measures have been instituted for these deaths and injuries in Tanzania and Zanzibar.
During the elections, police forcibly removed opposition leaders from polling stations in Kijiji, Kilindini, Kinuni, and Kijichi areas.28 Several opposition leaders and their supporters were arrested, interrogated, and allegedly tortured for disputing the October 2020 election results. ACT-Wazalendo’s Ismail Jussa was brutally assaulted by security forces during his arrest on October 29, 2020, while being interrogated.
Additionally, on November 1, 2020, police arrested Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, as well as party members Godbless Lema and Boniface Jacob. These arrests were made on the eve of protest demonstrations called by Chadema and ACT Wazalendo in response to alleged election rigging. Among those arrested and later released included opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, Zanzibar opposition presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad, and other opposition leaders, Zitto Kabwe, Freeman Mbowe, Godbless Lema, Lazaro Nyalandu, Isaya Mwita, Boniface Jacob, Nassor Mazrui, and Ayoub Bakari.
Also arrested during the election period was Chadema opposition Member of Parliament Halima Mdee, and ACT Wazalendo official Hamad Masoud Hamad. Party officials claimed that they had been denied access to their members who were arrested. ACT Wazalendo officials reported that they were denied access to all their detained party members. TEW issued statements condemning the arrests and called on the authorities to release all political prisoners.
Statements by the International Community
Tanzania’s 2020 elections were the most sparsely observed in the country’s history. Only the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community deployed observation teams. Still, the United States, the Commonwealth, Canada, the European Union, and Germany expressed deep concerns about reports of serious incidents of violence and electoral malpractice, Internet disruption, and the absence of level playing ground for all political parties.
See, Kenya must not deport fleeing opposition Tanzanian MP and his family. And, Tanzania Elections Watch Panel of Eminent Persons Calls for Release of Arrested Opposition Leader.
The East African Community’s mission endorsed the electoral process as credible while SADC congratulated President Magufuli on a resounding electoral victory without addressing any of the concerns raised by other observers. The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) enumerated the following problematic areas:
- Access to election information by voters, political parties, and other stakeholders: Limited televised access to parliamentary proceedings, restrictions on freedoms of the media, and internet restrictions during the voting process are all examples of ways in which information was limited during the 2020 electoral period.
- The arrest and detention of significant numbers of opposition candidates, party leaders, and members of the press fearing that these actions created an atmosphere of tension and fear, which was regrettable.
- The instability, general insecurity, and loss of life due to election-related violence, particularly in Zanzibar.
- The decision not to accredit established civil society organizations to support NEC and ZEC efforts to promote voter and civic education, as well as limited evidence of national voter education campaigns likely impacted the familiarity of voters, polling staff, and polling agents with the electoral rules and procedures on Election Day.
Tanzania’s elections on a democratic scale
The Constitution of Tanzania, 1977; and the National Elections Act, 1985, primarily provide the legal framework for conducting elections in Tanzania. In Zanzibar, the main instruments for conducting elections are the Constitution of Zanzibar, 1984; and the Elections Act, 1984. Tanzania is a party to a series of international and regional instruments regulating the conduct of democratic elections.
These include The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa; African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance; The Treaty Establishing the East African Community; Treaty of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
When the Africa Peer Review Mechanism conducted a governance review in Tanzania in 2013, it identified “serious flaws and cracks” in the constitutional and political framework for a competitive party and electoral politics as well as pluralism. East African Community Election Observer Mission to the United Republic of Tanzania general Elections, 2020 Preliminary Statement. EISA Election Observation Mission to the 2020 General Elections in Tanzania, Preliminary Statement.
Election Management Bodies: Tanzania Elections Watch Recommendations
The lack of independence of both NEC and ZEC has been a subject of debate for a long time now. International instruments such as the African Charter on Elections, Democracy, and Governance (ACEDG) set the benchmarks for assessing the independence of elections management bodies on the continent. EMBs should be secured constitutionally, the selection and appointment procedures for commissioners made inclusively, and their impartiality supported. They should also retain the authority to independently appoint their secretariat.
One way to enhance the independence of EMBs in Tanzania would be for inter-party parliamentary committees to nominate names of NEC/ZEC commissioners and propose them to Parliament for approval before appointment by the President.
Alternatively, as per the recommendations from the stalled constitutional review process, the commissioners should be recruited through an independent application process, and vetted by a selection committee before appointment by the President. The appointment of the chairman of the electoral management body, its Director of Elections, and Commissioners should be approved by Parliament.