Tanzania: 1995 Elections

Extracted from: Grant Masterson 2009 "Chapter 13: Tanzania and Zanzibar" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 546-549.

Tanzania's first multiparty elections since 1961 took place on the 29 October 1995, with polling stations opening at 07:00 and closing at 16:00 in most places. According to the NEC [National Electoral Commission], 81% of the eligible voters registered to vote in the elections, and of the registered voters, 76.7% cast their ballots on polling day (NEC 1997, 7).

The campaign period prior to the elections was characterised by repeated complaints and allegations levelled by the newly recognised opposition political parties regarding aspects of what they perceived as unfair treatment, or conversely the immense advantages which the incumbent CCM party enjoyed during the campaign period. The Commonwealth Observer Report for the 1995 elections notes that while it cannot be disputed that the incumbent party enjoyed an advantage in the first such multiparty elections in a country, there were clear and deliberate actions taken by the newly formed NEC to faithfully and fairly implement the majority of the recommendations of the Nyalali Commission report (Commonwealth 1995, 10).

Despite resource constraints, both financial and human, as well as time constraints and the sometimes obstructionist actions of opposition parties, the Commonwealth observers were generally satisfied with the NEC and state's efforts in carrying out the Nyalali Commission report's recommendations. An example of the challenges facing the NEC was evident during the commission's attempts to establish a Code of Conduct for political parties. The NEC proposed a draft outline for such a Code, but opposition parties roundly rejected the document as a CCM attempt to restrict opposition party freedoms during campaigning. When the NEC suggested that the opposition parties submit their own set of guidelines to the commission, this offer was ignored, and thus the campaign period was conducted without guidelines for political party conduct.

The NEC faced logistical problems in some areas, in particular at polling stations in the urban areas of Dar es Salaam, where voter materials and ballots were not delivered in adequate amounts to some stations, whilst others received no supplies throughout the polling day. The Commonwealth Observer report noted scenes of chaos during which election officials and staff were pillaging distribution centres for election supplies, which contributed to the NEC's uncertainty as to which centres had received supplies and which were still outstanding (Commonwealth 1995, 10). During the day, radio stations announced the decision of the NEC to extend voting by four hours to a close of 20:00, from the original closing time of 16:00 for polling stations. This meant that in many cases there was insufficient lighting to complete the count, and election staff were observed sleeping in the rooms with the ballots overnight, often in very uncomfortable conditions.

Parties contested two ballots during the polling: a proportionally elected presidential ticket, as well as constituency-based, winner takes all National Assembly ticket. Four parties put forward candidates for the Union's presidential nomination, and 13 parties contested some or all of the National Assembly seats. As expected, Benjamin Mkapa of the incumbent Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 61.8% of the presidential votes, with Augustino Mrema from NCCR-Maguezi party polling 27.8% of the votes (see Presidential results).

The National Assembly results highlighted one of the flaws with the constituency-based, winner-takes-all model used in the 1995 elections, with the CCM winning 59.22% of the proportional vote, but taking more than 80% of the National Assembly seats (see National Assembly results for details). Even more problematic was the disparity between the performances of NCCR-Maguezi and the Civic United Front (CUF), which drew its support primarily from the islands of Zanzibar. NCCR-Maguezi polled 21.83% of the proportional vote, but only won 6.9% of the National Assembly seats on offer, whilst the CUF won a negligible 5.02% of the proportional vote and yet secured 10.3% of the seats, due to the Union arrangement which weighted seats in Zanzibar favourably compared to the mainland. The drawbacks of this system were noted in the NEC's report on the 1995 elections, where the commission remarked that (NEC 1997, 67):

The results of the 1995 General Election are a good illustration of the present weakness of our system of parliamentary representation. On the basis of the present system of representation only by constituency members the number of seats in parliament has no numerical relationship with the number of votes nation-wise [sic].

The CCM secured an overwhelming majority (at least in terms of seats) in the National Assembly along with the presidential nomination to consolidate its power-base in the first openly contested multi-party elections in Tanzania since 1961.


See Zanzibar: 1995 Elections.


Commonwealth Secretariat 1995 The Union Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Tanzania, 29 October.

NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION 1997 The Report of the National Electoral Commission on the 1995 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.