Publication | Report/Paper

Republic in Transition: 1995 Elections in Tanzania and Zanzibar, IFES Observation Report


The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) carried out an observation of the 1995 Tanzanian elections, which include the October 22 local, House of Representatives and Presidential elections in Zanzibar, and the October 29 Union Presidential and Parliamentary elections (continued on November 19 in Dar es Salaam). IFES began its observation efforts with the arrival of a staff member in Dar es Salaam in late August. The delegation totaled 25 observers for the October 29 elections; smaller numbers observed the October 22 elections in Zanzibar and the November 19 elections in Dar es Salaam. The observation mission ended with the departure of the remaining member of the delegation from Tanzania on November 23, the day after the announcement of final results of the Union elections.

The goal of the report is to make a positive contribution to both the domestic and international audiences' understanding of the Zanzibar and Tanzania elections, so that a more accurate evaluation can be made of the fairness and legitimacy of the 1995 electoral process, and so that procedural problems and systemic weaknesses can be identified for correction in future multiparty elections in Tanzania. The report is addressed to both Tanzanian and international audiences: the National Electoral Commission and the Zanzibar Election Commission, the Tanzanian public, and the international community interested in the development of multiparty democracy in Tanzania.

IFES acknowledges the difficulties encountered by any country undergoing its first national multiparty elections after decades of single-party rule. With a shift in paradigm come changes in policies and procedures that must be developed and learned by an entire voting public. As a result, first-time elections are often less than perfect when held to the standard of elections in established multiparty democracies. However, there are minimum standards to which any election should be held. These include the adequate protection of the rights of citizens to register without discrimination, to cast a secret ballot free from intimidation, and to have his or her vote given equal weight to all others; and the rights of parties to 'form, to assemble, and to disseminate information freely, to access the media without discrimination, and to appeal denial or restriction of these rights. The State is responsible not only for protecting these rights, but also for ensuring that voters are given full information about the election process; that voters and candidates are provided adequate security; that election-related disputes are resolved in a timely fashion; and that, above all, the election is conducted in a transparent and open manner.

Overall throughout the process, IFES was encouraged by the determination of the Tanzanian citizens to participate in a multiparty election. Opposition parties endeavored to establish themselves as serious alternatives to the ruling party, officials in the field worked with the Election Commissions in efforts to carry out procedurally correct polling, and the electorate braved bad weather and long delays in order to cast their ballots. However, IFES did not find the same kind of responsiveness from the Tanzania government. Inadequate administration, inappropriate secrecy, and general inefficiency marred the process and cast doubt and mistrust over much of the outcome.

Neither the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania nor the Zanzibar Electoral Commission was able to win the trust of the electorate. The deficiencies in administration and logistics that characterized the Union election and caused the Dar es Salaam polling to be canceled and rescheduled, were a blow to morale and confidence that the public, not unjustly, laid at the doorstep of the NEC. In Zanzibar, confidence in the ZEC was shaken early when the commission chose to have ballots printed in South Africa, and refused to allow public scrutiny of the process. Trust in the institution only eroded further after that. The official results from Zanzibar and the inauguration of Salmin Amour as President are still being contested months after the election. Based on its own observations in Zanzibar at the time, IFES cannot with any degree of confidence conclude that the presidential election results as announced reflect the choice of voters at the polls. Delays in poll openings, missing tally sheets, discrepancies in vote tabulations and lack of cooperation by ZEC officials introduce more than reasonable doubt over the outcome. In Chapter VII of this report, both ZEC and opposition results are discussed. At this late date, when ballot papers and boxes have been stored or misplaced, a new election in Zanzibar may be the only way to get an accurate count and finally put suspicions and conjecture to rest.

IFES observations over three months in Tanzania also point to serious shortcomings in the performance of both commissions in the field of civic education. The State generally and the Electoral Commissions in particular had responsibility for informing the electorate about the procedures and substance of the 1995 electoral process. The NEC mounted a limited voter education campaign, using a variety of media. In assessing whether the voter education goals that the NEC set for itself were adequate, and whether the NEC accomplished its goals, IFES must answer in the negative. IFES observers were unanimous in finding very little evidence of ongoing voter education in the field in the month prior to the election, and in finding a severe lack of knowledge on the part of the electorate, particularly in rural areas, about the elections.

IFES found that the Governments of Tanzania and Zanzibar did not endow the commissions with all the necessary resources to carry out the organization of free and fair elections. Both commissions functioned under a cloud of suspicion that they were not sufficiently independent from the interests and the pressures of the ruling party, since members are chosen at the discretion of the President. This is especially true of the ZEC, where a lack of confidence in the ZEC's independence from influence of the President of Zanzibar and of the ruling party was much stronger than concerns expressed about the NEC's independence. The NEC also lacked adequate human resources (full-time commissioners and experienced returning officers, in particular) and adequate financial resources (in timely disbursement of funds from the Government of Tanzania to the NEC). Both of these shortcomings had a negative impact on the ability of the NEC to effectively carry out its role.

These first national multiparty elections made clear the desire of the citizens of Tanzania to increase their political space and choose leaders from outside of the traditional single party structure. The number of voters who cast their ballots to this quest for participation and for change. While these are positive signs in the move toward pluralistic democracy, IFES remains cautious in its prognosis for the future. Many steps can and should be taken by the Government, parties, and citizens to improve shortcomings and consolidate gains made in October and November of 1995. In Chapter X of this report, IFES posits recommendations in eight areas observed (some have been mentioned above; all are discussed in the body of the report): the general need for transparency and openness to public scrutiny; the need to guarantee the rights of voters; the need to provide for a well-organized place to vote; voter education; campaign activity by parties and candidates; the accuracy of counting and tabulation; Tanzania's fulfillment of the general responsibilities of the state in organizing elections; and the overall impact of systemic and procedural strengths and weaknesses on the fairness and legitimacy of the electoral process. These are eight areas in which Tanzanian's can make structural improvements through a number of mechanisms which include continued self evaluation and international assistance.

read the full report.