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IFES International Observer Report: The October 29, 2000 General Elections in Zanzibar


This report documents the observations of the international mission of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) to the October 29 Presidential, House of Representatives and local council elections in Zanzibar. The mission took place from October I through November 3, 2000, and was implemented by a group of fourteen elections and country experts from around the world. Funding for the mission was provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) Cooperative Agreement.

IFES agreed to observe the Zanzibar elections for several reasons. First, the Foundation felt that it was important to play a modest role in signaling the continued interest within the international community in Zanzibar's second series of multiparty elections. Second, the IFES international observers were there to ascertain that the results as announced truly reflected the choices made by voters at the polling stations, unlike what transpired in 1995. Finally, IFES knew that by virtue of having observed the Union elections in 1995 in Tanzania and Zanzibar, the Foundation brought a valuable comparative perspective to the international observation effort for the 2000 elections in Zanzibar.

As in 1995, poor management and inadequate service delivery characterized Zanzibar's 2000 elections. Logistics problems on the day of the election, in contrast to the experience of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in Zanzibar, ultimately served to reinforce this conclusion. On election day, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) suspended voting throughout Unguja and Pemba upon learning that there were insufficient ballots to conduct the election in the Urban and West districts. Police and military troops collected boxes from polling stations allover the Isles in a haphazard fashion. The ZEC's directions to returning officers and Presiding Officers in the wake of the suspension were carried out inconsistently. The elections were re-run on in the most severely affected districts on November 5, with the votes from the October 29 election counted simultaneously with the tabulation of the November 5 election.  The measures taken by the ZEC (with the implicit approval of the NEC) were a poorly planned and wholly inappropriate response to the situation. The ZEC's actions compromised ballot security throughout the archipelago, calling the validity of the entire election process into question. The ZEC's refusal to take a transparent approach to the problem contributed to IFES' decision not to observe the re-run of the elections and the final vote count. IFES therefore cannot confirm that the declared results of the elections in Zanzibar truly reflect the will of the Zanzibari people. The IFES international observer delegation issued a statement to this effect on November 1, 2000.

This report includes a description of the framework for the 2000 elections, the administrative preparation for the election events, and a summary of the IFES delegation's observations from October 1 through November 3. The conclusions and recommendations of the team, which form Section V of the report, are listed below:  

Within six months before the elections, the ZEC should publish a detailed calendar indicating the dates of civic education programs, voter registration, voter register display, and nomination and campaign deadlines for general use.

•         The redrawing of constituency boundaries, and other changes to the election system, should be completed in consultation with the NEC.

•         The ZEC should devote more resources to civic education, to reduce the common perception that only political parties provide civic education services.

•         The ZEC should instruct Presiding Officers and polling assistants more consistently in the completion of all ballot-related forms, and monitor them for compliance with the relevant regulations. In particular, forms l4A and l4B, which detail the number and type of ballots received at the beginning of the polling day, the number of ballots issued, and the number of ballots remaining after the close of poll, are the essential ingredients in preserving the security of the ballots.

•         The polling staff members who wrote voters' registration numbers on the ballots instead of the counterfoil are of similar concern; these staff must be instructed that ballot secrecy for all voters must be protected.

•         The inter-party meetings hosted by the ZEC prior to the elections represent a significant step forward in election administration on the islands. However, the fact that controversies arose between the parties on the activities of polling agents within 24 hours of election day indicates that more discussions (and agreements) are necessary, well in advance of the next election.

•         The NEC has considerable experience in election management from which the ZEC would greatly benefit. The consultative relationship between the two commissions should be more formalized, and implemented on a proactive basis by both groups. Implementation could take the form of periodic planning meetings, training sessions, and other opportunities for collaboration.

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