Oct 14, 2010

Zanzibar: Optimism Ahead Of Elections

The July referendum allowing a unity government has likely paved the way for peaceful elections in October. 


Below is an article published by Afrol News:


A referendum in July prepared the way for peaceful October elections in Tanzania's autonomous Zanzibar. Earlier Zanzibari elections have been marred by violence and bitter rivalry.


"With these results, there is no loser and there is no winner. Let us believe that we have all won." These were the words of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission when it announced the outcome of the referendum held on 31 July to decide whether the islands should have a unity government after the 31 October general elections.


More than two-thirds of the electorate voted for a power-sharing government, which could signal the end of political violence in the islands at election time.


A unity government will include a President from the winning party, first Vice President from the second-placed party and second Vice President from the wining party. Ministries would be allocated on a proportional basis.


Such a scenario points to a government made up of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which currently governs the islands and the main opposition, the Civic United Front (CUF) – an arrangement that many could never have predicted a few years ago.


Both parties had campaigned for a "yes" vote in the referendum.


The two parties, who have had a bitter rivalry since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992, said the referendum outcome was "a victory for all Zanzibaris" as well as Tanzania and the whole of East and Southern Africa.


"The people have expressed their opinion that they need unity in Zanzibar," the Zanzibar CCM Secretary-General said. "I hope the next elections will be peaceful and we shall continue to work together with the opposition."


The CUF leader, Seif Sharif Hamad, said he was happy with the results and "I hope that what we have been building since November last year will benefit all Zanzibaris." Mr Hamad is contesting the October polls for the fourth time after failed attempts in 1995, 2000 and 2005.


The CCM has selected Vice President Ali Mohamed Shein as its candidate for the Zanzibar presidential polls. Mr Shein replaces President Amani Abeid Karume, whose second and final term as Zanzibar President ends later in October.


The general elections in Zanzibar are conducted on the same day as national elections for Tanzania so Zanzibaris vote twice, once for the national President and parliament, and once for their own local President and parliament, which is more like local government.


The Zanzibar archipelago, comprising the two main islands of Unguja and Pemba, retains its own governance structure and electoral system in addition to the Tanzanian union structures.


Zanzibar and Tanganyika, as the mainland was then known, entered into a union agreement in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania, whose main objective is to build a unified society based on freedom, human rights and peaceful existence.


Tanzania's central government in September dismissed claims raised by legal experts that the amendments to the electoral law in Zanzibar would affect the union.


The country's deputy Attorney-General George Masaju said the changes were meant to accommodate the proposed unity government and not undermine the union.


"I do not see any problem related to the amendment anywhere in the Zanzibar constitution. The amendments seek to accommodate the structure of the coalition government and emphasise critical issues related to the union," he said.


Zanzibar's ruling CCM has also said despite the changes, the "union is still so strong that nothing could threaten it."