Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) has poked holes in the just concluded General Election in the East African Country citing numerous irregularities which affected the credibility of the poll.
TEW is a regional initiative established in 2020. Its mandate is to, shed light on the electoral context in Tanzania and offer a regional response.
In a preliminary report released on Friday morning, the panel, led by three co-chairs Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa from Uganda, Dr. Willy Mutunga from Kenya and Alice Mogwe from Botswana, agreed to a large extent to opposition claims that the election process was flawed right from the beginning.
The team stated that the conduct of security forces in Tanzania created a climate of fear and intimidation prior to, and during the Election Day itself.
Several opposition leaders including Chadema women leader Halima Mdee and Zanzibar Presidential Candidate Seif Sharif Hamad were among those arrested for calling for a credible poll.
At least 10 people were reported killed in Zanzibar after security forces clashed with civilians. There were reports of presence of foreign military in the semi-autonomous island.
“Reports of arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, sexual violence, torture, outright intimidation of opposition candidates and their party agents and violence against women have raised questions on the role of the security forces as provided under Article 147 of the United Republic of Tanzania Constitution. TEW remains concerned about the security forces role in the early voting in Zanzibar as well as in the Election Day processes, ” the report reads.
“Reports on the presence of foreign security agencies in Zanzibar impacted the safety and conduct of the election. Outright violence against innocent civilians by State security agents as witnessed both on the mainland and Zanzibar further contributed to an unsafe and insecure voting environment. The outcomes of these actions by these agents led to at least 10 deaths in Zanzibar. Many people sustained injuries across the entire country, and freedoms of movement, expression, and safety and integrity of the person, were severely restricted and not guaranteed as per the Constitution of Tanzania.”
— Tanzania Elections Watch (@WatchTanzania) October 30, 2020
During the Wednesday poll, the team observed that reports of opposition party agents being barred from accessing polling stations were widespread.
“There were generally few independent observers watching the polls. The TEW received reports of irregularities including, interference by security agencies in the voting process, ” TEW added.
The team also observed that Internet shutdown on the eve of the elections and during the Election Day itself hampered communication and access to information.
It added, “the July 17th enactment and subsequent enforcement of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020 affected citizens’ freedom to exchange information during the elections. The regulations outline a list of prohibited online content among which is criminalizing organizing, planning and supporting protests online.”
Tanzania had also just days to the poll suspended bulk messaging and bulk voice calling services eliciting an angry reaction from the opposition.
The observers further noted that the National Electoral Commission failed to meet basic standards of the administration of justice in the handling of appeals filed to challenge the disqualification of candidates.
“TEW observes that the electoral process, so far, falls way below the acceptable international standards for holding free, fair, participatory, peaceful, transparent, accountable, and credible elections in line with regional and international standards for democratic elections, ” said TEW.
“The Tanzanian elections were conducted in a context of a rapidly declining civic space, a challenging political and security environment and amid the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The report comes a day after Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu said he will not accept the outcome of the election.
In a press statement on Thursday, the Chadema presidential candidate said the election was marred by irregularities further accusing President John Pombe Magufuli of using the country’s electoral commission and the police to rig the poll.
As the country awaits the announcement of the presidential results, the opposition has already lost key parliamentary seats. Some of those who lost their seats include Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe and ACT Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe.
Even as Lissu cries foul over electoral malpractice, the opposition might never get justice as Section 41(7) of the United Republic of Tanzania Constitution provides that no court of law shall have any jurisdiction to inquire into the election of a presidential candidate once one has been declared by the electoral commission to have been duly elected.