In this paper, ILPI Senior Advisor Sterling Roop and Affiliated Researcher Dr. Keith Weghorst provide an overview of the watershed 2015 General Election process in Tanzania. This includes an analysis of the annulment of the 2015 General Elections in the semi-autonomous Isles of Zanzibar.
On October 25, 2015, Tanzanians voted in the country’s fifth elections since multipartyism was reintroduced in 1992. Ahead of the elections, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)’s 54-year rule was at risk. Former Prime Minister and CCM elite Edward Lowassa defected to leading opposition party Chadema and threatened to woo CCM loyalists to the opposition. Opposition parties formed Ukawa, an electoral coalition made of four opposition parties: Chadema, Civic United Front (CUF), NCCR-Mageuzi, and National League of Democracy (NLD). Ukawa strategically fielded a single parliamentary candidate in most constituencies.
The results extended CCM’s rule for another term. “The Bulldozer” John Pombe Magufuli was elected as Tanzania’s fifth president with 58.46% of the vote. The party narrowly maintained its legislative super-majority with 68.66% of seats in Parliament. 67.34% of eligible voters turned out to the polls. Observers celebrated the conduct of the elections as the best run in the country’s history, with one important exception: Zanzibar (Common Wealth Observer Group, 2015).
Semi-autonomous Zanzibar votes for the Tanzanian government and concurrently for its own President and legislature. Ahead of the polls, the opposition appeared positioned to defeat CCM there for the first time in history. As returns slowly rolled in, the opposition publicly declared victory based on their parallel vote tally. Before the remaining official results were released, the chairman of Zanzibar’s Electoral Commission unilaterally annulled the polls over allegations of opposition fraud. The elections were rescheduled for 2016 and, in March, the ruling party easily won due to an opposition boycott. The long-term impact of Tanzania’s national elections remains to be seen: the US has cancelled $472 million USD in aid over the Zanzibar polls (MCC, 2016); other countries are facing pressure to follow suit.
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Roop, Sterling, and Keith Weghorst. “The 2015 National Elections in Tanzania.” Electoral Studies (2016).