Zanzibar elections

East African_Peripetatic, wonders what exactly happened in the recent Zanzibar elections – did election rigging take place or not?

1 comment

  • Moh'd Khamis


    Let me confine myself to the day of elections in Zanzibar and the counting process.

    Phase I: The Morning of the Day: (Low Profile Irregularities)

    The day started with the problem of the missing or delayed list of registered voters that was supposed to have been pasted on the wall of every polling station, as previously agreed. This confusion was the catalyst that fueled up another making of the elections crisis in Zanzibar. It is not understood just how is it that the Zanzibar Electoral Commission could miss preparing that vital list of registered voters for that crucial historical day. This caused a series of polling delays in many polling stations; voters were confused and would not know to which polling station their names were allotted. By the time the lists were made available, it was already a few hours away into the day. (Polling was supposed to have started from 7 am until 5 p.m). It is mysterious to see that this problem occurred in areas or constituencies that posed great challenge to the ruling party’s chances of winning.

    Eventually, the lists were made available. But that was just the first hurdle. When registered voters looked to see to which polling stations their names belonged, many could not find their names on those lists. They had been registered before – and they had their valid voter registration cards —- but could not find their names on the lists. Many were turned away. Nevertheless, even those who found their names on those wall lists, they were shocked and astonished to see that their names were not on the copy of the Permanent Voter Register that lay with the returning officer of their polling station. They also were turned away. Others were told that their names appear to have already voted!!! So a slow systemic trend of deliberate disenfranchisement of registered voters started to take place. It was well distributed and beyond immediate comprehension of observers or other stakeholders. For most people, since the process was going “smoothly”, that was at least a relief from the chaos of 2000 Elections. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) stated that from their rough estimate, a minimum of about 40,000 people on both Unguja and Pemba isles were systematically disenfranchised by the end of the Election Day. This is a catastrophic figure bearing in mind that Zanzibar registered a total 507,000 voters.

    As this was going on, areas which had predominantly government supporters did not experience any serious “hiccups”. All went smoothly in those areas and in some polling stations, polling finished by 2 p.m.

    Phase II: The High Noon.

    This was carefully chosen period. Suddenly, as you all watched on CNN or BBC, series of Lorries, trucks, and buses carrying government supporters and party activists famously known here as the “janjaweed” started to appear in several polling stations. What was witnessed then was the audacious act by these government supporters to literally take over polling stations, get the voting papers, and carry out a party of multiple voting. This was happening while most returning officers simply looked on and as security forces that were shipped into Zanzibar only a few weeks earlier for the purpose of guarding and protecting the “people’s right to vote” would not intervene. Even soldiers were seen doing the multiple voting with ink on their thumbs. Astonishingly under-aged voters were also bussed in and this continued for some time before they vanished in the same way as they invaded the polling stations. None were arrested. But some international journalists who happened to be in those areas at the right time managed to contact them and confirm their origin and intent.

    By the time the polls were closing, Zanzibar was already aware of the systematic chaos that was unraveled on the main island of Unguja. But people hoped that this would not affect the elections and their choice.

    Part III: The Counting Begins:

    After polls closed, counting began. For most observers the process seemed neat and transparent. They never quite wanted to understand that the problem was not with the counting process but publication of results and announcement of those results by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. The CUF claimed early lead that evening in both the presidential and for House of Representatives. At the same time, it called in a press conference to explain the series of irregularities that had been reported to the party headquarters from the polling agents ate respective polling locations. The party talked about the disenfranchisement of thousands of people, and rigging by multiple voting by government supporters. Meanwhile, despite all that, the party was heading for an electoral win.

    Part IV: Morning After:

    By Monday morning, figures confirmed from the ZEC official result forms from most of 1,500 polling stations (save for 62 polling stations polling stations which did not have results forms) showed CUF presidential candidate winning the race by a slim majority of 51% compared to the incumbent president’s 49%. These result forms should have had copies handed out to all party agents at the polling stations. This surprisingly never occurred. ZEC took possession of all official result forms without leaving any official copies to the party agents. At the same time, CUF was almost certain to take between 8 and 10 seats at the House of Representatives on Unguja Island. This would have given the CUF 28 seats in the House that had 50 elected seats.

    CUF called in another press conference urging the ZEC to publish all official results at each polling station before official announcement of the results. ZEC refused to do so and went ahead announcing the incumbent president as the winner by 53% as against the CUF’s 46%. And CUF was only given one seat on Unguja island! The president was quickly sworn in the morning of the following day.

    Most African Observers endorsed the vote while most western observers have called for an inquiry into the way the election process was conducted by ZEC.

    CUF has refused to recognize the President, and have stopped to resume any cooperation with the Government of Zanzibar. However, their elected members of the House have been allowed by the party to attend the House. CUF demands for an international inquiry into the electoral irregularities and have still re-affirmed their intentions for mass action later this year.

    M.K. from Zanzibar

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