Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Election - Zanzibar Style

Touching on a topic I've not previously written about - the Zanzibar Election today. For those of you who don't know where it rests on the map, the small semi-autonomous island lies just off the coast of Tanzania. Its big brother was due to hold elections today also, yet the death of an opposition candidate postponed those until December 18th.

So whats the Democracy situation like here? Not good on past form. The ruling CCM has been in power for over 40 years (only conceding Democracy in 1995). The Tanzanian opposition (which holds the same role on this island) finds most of its support in Zanzibar. Yet all the media on the island is controlled by the ruling party, and despite cries of ballot-rigging, the CCM doesn't look set to allow power slip through its fingers anytime soon. The run up to this poll, like those previously, has also been marred by violence and repression of the opposition. Yet whatever can be said, its election day itself that will count.

Are the signs encouraging? No. According to Reuters:

Zanzibari troops beat opposition supporters and fired a live bullet and tear gas on Sunday during an election on the Tanzanian islands marred by clashes and fraud allegations almost as soon as polls opened.
Violence intensified in the afternoon, as troops and opposition backers fought more and more in the streets of historic Stone Town.

The opposition CUF, has also said that eight of its workers were 'abducted' in the early hours. Despite this the party leader Seif Sharif Hamad said:

"Until now, it seems that the election is going well in Pemba and here...The voting system has been so far quite transparent (although) there are some problems here and there."

The ballots are now being counted, expect results by the middle of the coming week. Zanzibar should also provide an interesting test-run for the Tanzanian elections, where a similar political situation exists. If there is a transfer of power on Zanzibar, an African ruler will, for a change prove they can do Democracy.


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