n Journal of African Elections - Do elections matter in Zanzibar?




Do multiparty elections facilitate or hinder the process of democratic consolidation in Zanzibar? Since Tanzania's return to a multiparty system in 1992 three rounds of general elections have been held in Zanzibar, all of them marred by gross irregularities, fraud, violence, and insecurity. All three elections were also followed by a political stalemate, with a major opposition party rejecting defeat, refusing to recognise the elected government, and challenging the results. Consequently, the legitimacy of the elected government has remained questionable for more than a decade. This puts in question the reliance on the 'election-centric concept' of the 'consolidation' phase, which tends to place a great deal of hope in the holding of periodic elections. This by no means suggests that elections do not matter in Zanzibar. They matter in terms of keeping the flame of democratic struggle alive. Also, as the findings in this article indicate, there is a need to pay attention not only to elections but, equally importantly, to other processes and institutions of governance that enhance the rule of law and individual rights.


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