After a long period of negotiations, it was announced on Friday that Zanzibar will hold a re-run of elections on 20 March. The news was accompanied by a deployment of security forces in the semi-autonomous archipelago and was greeted with anger by many on the streets of the capital. “We have been cheated,” exclaimed one resident of Stone Town. “They will be here up to the 20 March, there is no freedom in Zanzibar,” said another. The decision comes three months after elections in October 2015 were controversially annulled by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission chairman, Jecha Salim Jecha, who claimed that there had been irregularities. The Tanzanian army had a strong presence in Stone Town and had surrounded the Commission.
The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) – whose leader Seif Sharif Hamad told reporters he had seen the estimations which showed the results strongly favoured him – denounced the annulment. Many citizens claimed the move was a political ruse by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to maintain power. Meanwhile, international observers concurred that the election had been credible and urged the commission to complete the count and declare the results.
Since then, Zanzibar has been locked in a political and constitutional crisis. The opposition has opted for dialogue over demonstrations, but with CCM politicians reportedly undermining the talks by claiming a rerun of elections was being prepared, frustrations and feelings of injustice have grown.