On October 28, Tanzania got a new president, but the election has been fraught with restrictions on democratic rights, according to several sources. "It is extremely worrying," said Deprose Muchena of Amnesty International.
Tanzania last week held presidential elections in which less than 50 percent of the country's population voted. President John Magufuli of the Chama Cha Mapindizi party won the election with 84 percent of the vote. Magufuli is a former minister and also a trained teacher and chemist at the University of Dar es Salaam. President Magufuli's party Chama Cha Mapindizi has ruled Tanzania since 1977. The opposition party with candidate Tindu Lissu received 13 percent of the vote.
President Magufuli has strong support in rural areas where the population supports his major infrastructure projects and anti-corruption campaign. Tundu Lissu from the Chadema party has returned to Tanzania after spending the last few years in Belgium following an assassination attempt in 2017. Lissu has talked about strengthening companies and re-establishing democracy in the country if he is elected.
Chama Cha Mapindizi or in Swedish, the Revolutionary State Party, ruled the country as a one-party state until 1992 when more parties were allowed and in 1995 when the first multi-party elections were held.
The opposition states: Election fraud
Already last week, one of Tanzania's major opposition parties on the mainland, Chadema, warned of high risks of cheating in the upcoming elections. The country's election commission has denied several opposition parliamentary candidates running, reports al-Jazeera.
The BBC has reported that opposition candidate Tundu Lissu has claimed that there was election fraud during the election. However, the National Electoral Commission denies the allegations, saying they are unfounded. In addition, Lissu has said that his employees did not have access to polling stations during election day.
On the mainland, the election went smoothly, but in Zanzibar, police violence has been reported even before the election, according to DN. Two opposition parties are now also demanding new elections as they believe that the election did not go right and state that the presidential election was marked by "widespread irregularities", according to SVT.
Tough restrictions since last summer
In the run-up to the elections in Tanzania, the national government has introduced restrictions on the media and social media. This summer, members of the opposition were arrested and banned from organizing elections in Tanzania.
In June, the National Electoral Commission published a list of the organizations that are allowed to observe the election. Large human rights organizations such as the Legal and Human Rights Center and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition are some of the organizations that have not been allowed to monitor the election. In addition, rules have been introduced to prevent civil society organizations from carrying out their work.
The rights of the opposition are violated
Amnesty International describes in a report that Lawfare - Repression by Law Ahead of Tanzania's General Elections, how the opposition candidates were arrested with the help of false accusations. This summer, for example, the leader of the opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency was arrested together with seven other party members for allegedly holding illegal gatherings. The opposition's right to freedom of assembly, association and movement has been violated and they have also been subjected to threats.
Using legislation to systematically and intentionally crack down on human rights, especially in election time, is an extremely worrying and unhealthy sign for a country that wants to position itself as a country at the forefront of growth and development, says Deprose Muchena, Amnesty Regional Director for eastern and southern Africa, in a press release.
- The people of Tanzania have been more stressed before this year's election than before. The opposition is also heard more this year compared to earlier. At the same time, it is noticeable that Tanzania has changed a lot in recent years. It feels like you do not have the same freedom of expression, says a Swedish anonymous source on site in Tanzania.
The choice and its consequences
After the election, there is now a concern that unrest will break out in the country. The opposition has announced that they will not accept the election result and in Zanzibar the opposition has called on its supporters to protest. Dan Paget, at the University of Aberdeen, writes in The Conversation that the 2020 election will lead to a new era of authoritarian rule.
"The similarity of Tanzania with a liberal democracy seems to be disappearing", he says in The Conversation.