Magufuli’s 5-point strategy for rigging the 2020 elections

President Magufuli - File photo

This article was filed by a Special Correspondent from Dar es Salaam

TANZANIANS will be going to the polls on Wednesday 28th October 20220 in what will be the 6th round of general elections since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the country in 1992. 

Historically, the country has been previously lauded for its successful adherence to the constitutional term limits set out in Article 40 of the United Republic of Tanzania constitution. 

Often, the elections have been ruled as somehow free and fair, with notable exceptions in Zanzibar where every election, except the 2010 elections, has led to controversy and crisis. 

The 2015 elections in the isles led to another political stalemate and the collapse of the Government of National Unity that had been established in 2010 to address the historically political enmity in the isles. 

On the mainland, the opposition staged a parliamentary walkout to protest the results of the elections in each of the last two elections. In 2015, the protest aimed to draw attention to the events in Zanzibar where the chairman of the electoral commission had unilaterally and extra-legally annulled the entire electoral process following an obvious opposition victory. 

The announcement was made despite several opposition candidates receiving certified results and confirmation of their electoral victories by the Zanzibar electoral commission. The announcement by the ZEC Chairman, Jecha Salim Jecha, followed the invasion of the national vote tallying centre at Bwawani by the Union military forces on October 27, 2015. 

By all standards, the Zanzibar elections set the tone of what was going to become of Tanzania’s democracy. 

By June 2016, a decree by President John Magufuli criminalised the holding of public rallies in the country. While there is no provision of law providing for such a directive, the Tanzania police force has abided by it religiously since then. 

On the other hand, the opposition has witnessed the unleashing of lethal violence against their operations, economic sanctions, violations of personal safety and, in some cases, deaths. 

This situation followed President Magufuli’s statement on 5th February 2016 at a public rally to commemorate his party’s 39th anniversary, that he was determined to put an end to the country’s competitive politics by getting rid of the opposition parties before 2020. 

This explains the widespread violence that has made many opposition members fearful, with some being forced to defect to the ruling party. 

In what appeared to be the marching orders for provisional heads of elections, and in the absence of an independent electoral commission, Magufuli warned the District Executive Directors – his appointees – in early 2018 that he would be “surprised to see them approve of the election of any opposition candidates” whilst it is he who pays for their livelihood.

Since his statement, the District Executive Directors have fulfilled the president’s wishes and ensured that no opposition candidate wins any by-election. 

In essence, the directors have become a notable impediment to the realisation of electoral justice in Tanzania. 

For instance, the director for Kinondoni District refused to grant accreditation to opposition party agents appointed to oversee the Kinondoni by-elections in February 2018, leading to widespread protests that ended up in the police shooting to death a college student, Aquilina Akwilini. 

In Siha constituency, Kilimanjaro region, where another by-election was held, the district executive director refused to publish the final election results from the polling centre, letting instead, police to collect the ballot boxes – which is not their job. 

Such blatant violations of electoral rules led to protests by opposition politicians as well as some civil society leaders who took the matter to court to challenge the appointment of the directors as provincial returning officers. 

The High Court ruled that, indeed, the provision of the Election Act, that is, Article 7, was in violation of Article 71 of the constitution that requires the returning officers to be independent and impartial. 

Through political manoeuvring, however, Magufuli’s government managed to overturn the historic decision through an appeal at the Court of Appeal. So, the same directors who happen to be ruling party cadres will oversee the election in which other parties compete with their party.

The stage for manipulation and rigging of the current elections has already been decided. First in the by-elections and at a larger scale during the civic (subnational) elections in November 2019. 

On 1st September 2019, the President hosted all the local election supervisors at the State House in Dar es Salaam. During the meeting, he gave specific instructions on how “they were not being paid to allow for opposition victories during the elections.” 

Their line managers were instructed to assist them in undertaking a legalistic approach to ensuring opposition candidates were completely excluded from the elections. The outcome of these instructions was the exclusion of over 400,000 candidates for various positions. 

The two leading opposition parties had 96% of their candidates disqualified, leading to a sweeping majority for the ruling CCM. 

Towards the October general elections, the National Electoral Commission, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, the Police Force, the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services, as well the district executive directors – all manned by the president – have received directives on how to rig the elections based on recent experience. 

Subsequently, the manipulation would lead to the widespread exclusion of opposition candidates as was observed during the local government elections in November 2019. 

The 5-point rigging strategy

As such, to ensure no opposition candidates make it to voting day in October, the Magufuli regime has set up the following five steps as a strategy: 

  1. Many (up to 20%) of the opposition candidates may not be able to access nomination forms from their respective returning officers. They will be informed that the returning officers have already received letters from their respective parties appointing other candidates. This was tried and tested in the Korogwe by-election in 2018, and it was widely deployed in the recent local government elections. 
  3. Another significant fraction of the opposition candidates may be allowed to collect the nomination forms but, may however, not be allowed to return the duly filled in forms. The candidates will mysteriously not be able to find the returning officers in their respective offices and as such fail to beat the deadline for returning such forms. In the course of returning the forms, they will be harassed by security forces with some of them getting arrested as was observed in Tunduma during recent by-elections where CHADEMA candidates were jailed on dubious citizenship charges. 
  5. Those who successfully return the nomination forms may still have to overcome a (fictitious) challenge of not meeting the nomination criteria. The returning officers will simply advise the candidates that due to missing information in their submitted forms, they are disqualified from the ballot. 
  7. Of the few who will make it to the ballot, many will be disqualified by the National Electoral Commission on grounds of objections received by the NEC. The candidates will be whittled bit by bit to ensure an insignificant minority remains in the race. 
  9. In the ultimate stage of the rigging, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties will take a proactive role on the grounds of violating the Election Code of Ethics as well as the Election Expenses Act. The opposition candidates will be strategically sampled and selected for the aggressive enforcement of the law with the view to disqualify them. 

By October 2020, only about 2% to 4% of the opposition candidates are still expected to be running based on the grand rigging plan. The remaining few are expected to be running in traditional CCM strongholds where they stand little, if any, chance of registering an election victory. 

Consequently, this grand plan is expected to deliver the targeted 95% election victory for President Magufuli and his party as witnessed in the local government election where they won 99.7% of the voteIt is yet to be seen how the opposition will react to these planned violations although tension remains high with troops of over 500,000 candidates who were denied the opportunity to run in the local government elections. It is likely that such violation will trigger election violence given the level of electoral injustice it presents and the difficult circumstances within which politics have been conducted over the last 5 years in Tanzania.


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