Tanzania is well renowned for peace and stability in an otherwise troubled region. The transition from a single-party to a multiparty system has likewise been peaceful since the first multiparty election took place in 1995. The country is de facto a single-party system dominated by Chama Cha Mapinduzi. A more competitive election in 2010 and the upcoming review of the constitution may, however, be indicative of changing times for politics in Tanzania. DIPD seeks to support democracy in Tanzania through a partnership with the multiparty platform, Tanzania Centre for Democracy, and two party-to-party partnership between the Danish Social-Liberal Party and the Civic United Front, and the Conservatives and CHADEMA.
Unlike many of its African peers, Tanzania has largely managed to escape conflict and instability. The introduction of a multiparty system in 1992 after 27 years of constitutionally single party rule has likewise proceeded peacefully. In spite of being home to more than 20 political parties, ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has won all elections since 1995 – a tendency amplified by the winner-takes-all electoral system.
Time may, however, be changing. The 2010 Presidential and Parliamentary elections are widely considered the most legitimate and competitive in Tanzania’s history. While CCM claimed victory, the main rivals Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and Civic United Front (CUF) managed to pose a somewhat credible opposition.
The opposition is particularly strong in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. CCM has won all election, yet with small margins to main rival, CUF. Relations between the two parties have historically been strained, but somewhat stabilized by constitutional amendments to the Zanzibar constitution in 2010, which provided for formation of a government of National Unity between CCM and CUF.
The constitution has often been cited as a key constraint in developing a level playing field for political competition. Therefore, political parties founded after liberalisation in 1992, civil society and academics have consistently called for reforms of the constitutional and legal framework as a necessary condition to entrench democracy. The call was answered in 2011, when the Constitution Review Act was passed by parliament and accented by the president. The process commenced with the formation of the Constitutional Review Commission in 2012.
The constitutional review and increased dialogue between political parties in the country present a critical juncture for democracy in Tanzania and may lead to a strengthening of the multiparty system as the country moves towards the 2015 elections.