Tanzania held its fifth multi-party elections Oct. 25. Ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, Party of the Revolution) will retain the presidency, with candidate John Magufuli winning 58.5 percent of the vote. Elections in Tanzania, though, are made up of two sets of elections. In addition to voting for Tanzanian presidential and parliamentary offices, the semiautonomous archipelago Zanzibar has its own president, legislature and electoral body — the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC). While pre-election polls showed that CCM was likely to stay in power in Tanzania’s mainland, signs pointed to a potential opposition victory in Zanzibar. Observers initially praised the elections as the smoothest in Zanzibar’s tumultuous history, but there was a sharp turn Wednesday morning. ZEC Chairman Jecha Salum Jecha unilaterally announced that Zanzibar’s elections would be annulled. The headline for this post draws from a statement by the Commonwealth observer team shortly after the results were annulled, pleading for a speedy resolution because “democracy, peace and unity in Zanzibar are at stake.” As rumors spread and tensions rise, this post sheds light on the events leading up to the announcement to annul Zanzibar’s election and the aftermath.
Delays in reporting results have tarnished Zanzibar’s elections. Perennial Civic United Front (CUF) presidential candidate for Zanzibar Seif Sharrif Hamad blames ZEC for his election defeats, especially in 1995. In his account, ZEC informed him in 1995 that he was the winner but also told the incumbent Zanzibari president, Salmin Amour of the CCM. By the time the results were officially reported the following day, ZEC announced that Seif lost to CCM’s Amour by a 1 percent margin. (In his memoirs, Seif attributes the 1995 switch to interference by Amour and other CCM leaders in mainland Tanzania.) Elections were smooth in 2010 because of a reconciliation process, but tensions rose again over delayed results.
The root of these tensions is a lack of confidence in ZEC. Zanzibari citizens trust the electoral commission less than any other Zanzibari government institution or political party. When asked how much they trust ZEC, almost a third of respondents in an August 2013 survey in Zanzibar responded “not at all.” The opposition does not see ZEC as impartial.