The Zanzibar Electoral Commission recently announced that the Tanzanian island’s local presidential election will be rerun on March 20, after having annulled the results of an October ballot that many believed was won by the opposition Civic United Front (CUF). In an email interview, Michael Jennings, senior lecturer in the department of development studies at SOAS, University of London, discusses Zanzibar’s election crisis.
WPR: Why were the results of October’s regional presidential election in Zanzibar canceled, and what is at stake in the standoff over the recently announced new elections?
Michael Jennings: Officially the results of the elections on Zanzibar were nullified after the Zanzibar Electoral Commission alleged malpractice and rigging. However, international observers had declared the elections to be mostly fair and clean, and it is widely believed that the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) won the poll. Pressure to overturn the results was most likely directed by the Zanzibar branch of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which fears losing power and the control over patronage that power brings with it. However, mainland CCM leaders also have concerns about the possibility of an opposition president of Zanzibar being a formal part of the Tanzanian government, as the island’s president also serves as first vice-president.