The Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Tanzania have been marred by widespread accusations of fraud and violence, as reported in the Guardian, al-Jazeera and New York Times.
The reports carry quotes from local observers and opposition political parties but nothing from international election missions because credible groups have been denied entry or failed to receive the invitation and assurances they needed that their teams would be treated fairly.
From a European perspective, the organisation that covers most elections in Africa is the EU. A Polish MEP asked in September about the envisaged mission, but the answer confirmed that there would be none.
“As the EU did not receive an answer from the Tanzanian authorities to its application for accreditation that would ensure that the standard terms of reference for an Electoral Expert Mission would be respected, in particular in terms of access and dialogue with the electoral management bodies, the intended deployment of such a mission became unfeasible.”
The big regional organisations are the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community, but only the AU was present and deployed at relatively short notice. There is nothing on their website to indicate a statement on the conduct of the election.
The only other missions that I can find any evidence of are the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and the East African Community (EAC). The first of these is a small NGO which has worked with the EU in the past. They had a small short term mission and are due to issue a statement tomorrow (UPDATE: No statement has been published on their website as at 18:20 GMT 30th October)
The EAC sounds like an august body and their mission was led by the former President of Burundi, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. It declares that its mandate will be:
“to observe the overall electoral environment, pre-election activities, the polling day, the counting and tallying/announcement of results.”
Part of the problem is that the mission only arrived in country on Friday 23rd for an election the following Wednesday. By any standards it would be impossible for the team to assess the pre-election environment, let alone the campaign, voter registration, election staff training, voter education or any of the other key activities that take place before election day. This is particularly the case as on the first two days of their deployment the mission members were taking part in briefings
The EAC mission promises that a statement will be made on Friday 30th (and I will update at that point), but I am not especially hopeful of it being a fair and unbiased account as the head of the EAC, Libérat Mfumukeko, said in their launch press release:
“we expect a successful mission and we very much believe that this will further strengthen the democratic process and advance development in the region”
UPDATE: The EAC statement says they visited 160 polling stations. They give a positive report on the processes and note no negative aspects and conclude:
“Generally, the Mission is of the view that the Election process was conducted in a credible manner.”
This is a preliminary statement and a final report will be published at some point in the future.
At a time when Covid-19 is making normal work very difficult, it has been shown by OSCE/ODIHR and others that election observation missions can still take place in a meaningful way. That is not a criticism of the EU, SADC, Commonwealth and other groups that might have been present. They have to prioritise the safety of their teams and if the normal guarantees have not been given then it is understandable that they have stayed away
So it appears that it is a deliberate decision by the Tanzanian authorities to refuse to provide the usual invitations or guarantees to potential missions. It would be good to hear from governments whether they consider this to be a deliberate act and, if so, what they will be doing in response. Holding elections behind closed doors so that the results can be unfairly manipulated demands a diplomatic response and I hope that one will be forthcoming.
UPDATE: This post was updated on 30th October to take account of the presence of the AU mission, the EAC preliminary statement and the lack of anything from the EISA or AU.