The general election in Zanzibar on Sunday October 30, 2005 was not free and fair. The Civic United Front does not recognise the result of the election and does not recognise the government of Amani Karume and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM – Party of the Revolution).
Responsibility for the rigging of the elections lies with the Zanzibar government and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission but ultimately with the United Republic of Tanzania headed by President Benjamin Mkapa. Despite three years of discussion, dialogue, international engagement and much rhetoric committing the governments and CCM to free and fair elections to avert another political crisis in Zanzibar, the letter and spirit of Muafaka has been ignored by CCM. From beginning of the registration process to the counting of votes and the announcement of results, electoral laws and agreed procedures were not followed. People have been assaulted, killed and raped by state security forces on a regular basis since the beginning of the registration process in November 2004. These elections do not reflect the wishes of the Zanzibar people. Zanzibaris have already suffered in their attempt to have their right respected. They will undoubtedly suffer yet more under a government that can only stay in power through force of arms.
A free and fair election is not beyond Zanzibaris. The 2003 by–election in Pemba was a model a well–organized, representation and healthy democratic system. Even during the general election just passed, in Pemba the exercise was, for the most part, free from controversy. Results from the polling stations were not disputed and the results announced by ZEC matched almost perfectly the results reported by CUF agents at the polling stations. ZEC has shown that it can organize free and fair elections if it wishes.
The reason for the shambles in Unguja on October 30 was because ZEC and the CCM government did no intend for the election to be free and fair there. There were widespread irregularities, starting with large numbers of people registered to vote who had no right to vote. State security forces and militias complicit with them intimidated voters and committed human rights abuses to prevent people from registering and from voting.
On polling day, multiple voting was rife, procedures and electoral laws were not followed, CCM officials, Shehas and Security Forces interfered in the voting process and ensured that the results recorded at the polling stations did not reflect the democratic wishes of the people. While counts at polling stations were more or less transpired, the accounting of the process was not as CUF agents were not given copies of results forms and were shut out of district and regional level tallying of results. Finally, the results announced by ZEC differed from results recorded by ZEC at polling stations in a number of serious ways; sufficient to throw into doubt the integrity of ZEC’s own results leave alone the fact that so many of the votes counted were illegal to start with. The election Unguja was not free and fair and thus the whole election cannot be said to be so.
The general election on Sunday October 30, 2005 was the third election held in Zanzibar since the advent of multi – party in the Isles in 1992. Both previous elections were marred by irregularities which resulted in diplomatic consequences for Zanzibar. In 1995, the elections were deemed not free and fair by international observers, following which most direct development aid to Zanzibar was suspended.
In 2000, the elections were cancelled by the government during the afternoon of voting day. Police seized ballot boxes and 16 constituencies were re- run at a later date. CUF boycotted the re- run since it disputed the result and process of the whole election and because the prospect of free and fair elections in the re–run was slim.
It is very sad for Zanzibar and her people that the elections of 2005 have followed the same pattern. There had been hope that things might have been different this time.
After the stolen elections of 2000, CUF gave the government a deadline of 90 days, after which time the party promised mass protests. On January 27, 2001 the party duly staged peaceful protests which were savagely dispersed by security forces using live ammunition. 46 people were killed and more than 2000 refugees fled to Kenya. Tanzania and her friends around the world were shocked. As a result of the tragedy, however, the two main political parties in Zanzibar, CUF and the ruling CCM, disagreements in the Isles would be a thing of the past.
The agreement, called ‘Muafaka’, was between the two parties at the national level and laid out a programme of reform and structures of dialogue involving both the Union and Zanzibar governments. Donor countries were closely involved in funding the reform programme and supporting the reconciliation process. The main aim of the reform process was to build an infrastructure which could allow free and fair elections. To this end, the agreement included provisions to:
- reform the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and make it independent of government
- create a permanent voters register, agreed by all parties
- reform the publicly owned media with the aim to provide equitable and balanced coverage to all political parties
- de-politicize the security service by conducting a thorough re- orientation programme and review of their recruitment law and practice.
- reform the judiciary to make it independent from the Executive and restore public confidence into it as a fountain of justice.
- investigate state-sponsored human rights abuses and pay compensation to the victims accordingly.
While it appeared for some time during 2002 and 2003 that the CCM – led governments were making progress towards the first two points, the second four items were never attempted. It is now clear that whatever cosmetic reforms may have been implemented, the ‘Muafaka’ agreement and its spirit of reconciliation and fair play were never taken seriously by CCM. The election just passed was not run on the basis of a permanent voters register agreed by all parties and it was not conducted under the auspices of an electoral commission or security services independent of government or party political interference.
The following sections explain why the condition for a free and fair election were not in place and detail examples of the rigging conducted by CCM, ZEC and the Organs of the Union and Zanzibar governments.