Tanzania: Electoral system

Updated September 2020

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Legal and institutional framework

Legal basis
Electoral system National Assembly seat allocation: Bulk of members elected from single member constituencies by plurality through universal adult franchise elections; about 30% of all seats allocated by proportional representation for the representation of women[1]
President: Directly elected by universal adult franchise by plurality of votes[2]
Electoral management bodies (EMBs) National Electoral Commission (NEC) is responsible for constituency delimitation, voter registration, conduct of elections and publication of results; Director of Elections is the executive arm of the NEC[3]
Independence of electoral institutions Members of the NEC are appointed by the President and may be removed for failing to discharge duties or misconduct; the NEC is not obliged to accept instructions from any external body[4]
Political parties Only registered parties may participate in elections, no independent candidates are permitted[6]
Party registration is undertaken by the Registrar of Political Parties, who falls under the executive[7]
Party funding and finances: Funding of political parties by the State was abolished in 2000; private donations must be disclosed to the Registrar of Political Parties; funds received from abroad must be disclosed; limits on election expenditure set by the designated Minister. Parties who commit liable to fine of 3 millions Shillings, 1 million for individual candidates[8]
Civil society Civil society engagement in the electoral process tends to focus on civic and voter education and observation of elections[9]
Mass media Fair access to and the impartiality of state owned media is mandated by law; the NEC issues directives with the force of law to state media to provide equal opportunities for parties[10]

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Election management

Election period and dates Presidential and parliamentary elections every 5 years concurrently; president announces the dates of elections and the NEC lays out the election timetables; voting takes place between 08:00 and 18:00[11]
Delimitation of constituencies The demarcation of constituencies is the function of the NEC; the NEC reviews delimitation, with the consent of the President, every 10 years; NEC delimitation decisions are not subject to judicial review[12]
Voter registration and voters' rolls Continuous voluntary registration.
Conducted by officials of the NEC, supervised by Director of Elections; review of Permanent Voters' Register undertaken twice between general election and the next nomination day[13]
Political parties may appoint an agent for each constituency to facilitate process[14]
Prospective voters must satisfy registration officials that they are qualified to be registered in the voting district and are issued with a voter's card[15]
Voters' rolls are displayed public inspection, objections and rectification[16]
Civic and voter education The NEC is tasked by law, since 2004, with voter training and education; such voter education that took place prior to 2004 was undertaken by NGOs[17]
The NEC accredits voter education programmes[18]
Candidate nomination All candidates must be proposed by a political party
National Assembly: Must be a citizen at least 21 years old, can read and write in Kiswahili or English; must pay a deposit and has the nomination endorsed by 25 voters in the constituency[19]
Presidential: Must be a citizen at least 40 years of age and qualified to be a member of the National Assembly or the House of Representatives and not have been convicted of tax evasion; pays a deposit and has the nomination endorsed by 200 voters[20]
Election observation Observers are invited by the Ministry responsible for foreign affairs, are accredited and briefed by the NEC, and are subject to a code of conduct issued by it[21]
Election campaigns Political activity of parties, candidates and party activists are subject to a legally binding Electoral Code of Conduct[22]
The campaign period is from the day after nomination day until the day before election day; campaign meetings are prohibited on election day[23]
Minister responsible for political parties is empowered to set a maximum limit on election expenditure and is enforced by the Registrar of Political Parties[24]
Conflict prevention and management The constitution prohibits enquiry by the courts into a presidential election result declared by the NEC; electoral petitions for parliamentary elections must be made within 14 days of the announcement of results and are heard by the High Court[25]
Election staff and logistics Regional coordinators, returning officers and other senior staff are appointed by the NEC; polling staff are appointed by returning officers; officials appointed may not be members of a political party[26]
For the 2005 elections, the average number of voters per polling station was 450, generally schools were used as registration centres which then served as polling stations; voters' rolls and candidate lists are displayed outside polling stations 8 days before election day[27]
Ballot papers for each election are colour coded to match the ballot box for that election[28]
See also Cost of elections
Secrecy of the ballot The polling booths must be placed so as to shield the voters from observation while they mark their ballots; voters requiring assistance in marking their ballots may choose another voter to assist them[29]
Voting and counting process In presence of candidates and their agents and other authorised persons, the presiding officer demonstrates ballot boxes are empty and seals them[30]
A voter presents identification or a voters' card, is issued with a ballot paper, marks the paper next to candidate of choice in a ballot booth voter and folds it, leaves and places the ballot in a ballot box in the presence of the presiding officer; the voter's finger is marked with indelible ink[31]
After the close of the poll counting takes place, as soon as is practical, at the polling stations by presiding officer in presence of electoral officials, party agents, candidates and observers[32]
Announcement of results Copies of the results are posted outside the polling station and issued to party agents by the presiding officer; equipment, documentation ballot papers are packaged and sealed and delivered to the returning officer[33]
Returning officer summates the results submitted by the presiding officer and publishes/announces the final results in a public; retuning officer then submits the results to the NEC who publishes it in the government Gazette. The declaration of presidential results is final and cannot be challenged. No time frame for announcement of results is specified[34]

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Table notes

[1] Constitution 1977, Articles 66, 76-83.
[2] Constitution 1977, Article 41. This article was amended in 2000 to abolish the requirement for an absolute majority (National Electoral Commission 2000, 5); National Elections Act, 35F(8).
[3] Constitution 1977, Article 74(6),(7).
[4] Constitution 1977, Article 74(1),(5),(11).
[6] Constitution 1977, Articles 39(1)(c), 67(1)(b).
[7] Political Parties Act, 4(1).
[8] Ahluwalia & Zegeye 2001; Election Expenses Act 2015, 10, 11(1), 26(a); Political Parties Act (13(2)). A foreign donor basket was set up after the withdrawal of State funding to provide funds for political parties.
[9] Masterson 2009, 522.
[10] National Elections Act, 21, 28, 53; National Electoral Commission 2000, 41-42, 125-128. The Editors Forum Workshop (2010a) adopted a "Media Code of Conduct for Election Reporting" that was subsequently endorsed by media stakeholders.
[11] Constitution 1977, Articles 42(2), 65(1); National Elections Act, 47(3); Masterson 2009, 523, 542. Voters who are waiting to vote at closing time are permitted to vote (National Elections Act, 68). If the office of the President becomes vacant (due to death, resignation etc) the Vice President completes the term of office and if Parliament is dissolved presidential as well as National Assembly elections must be held (Constitution 1977, 37(5), 38(2)(a); see also Article 90).
[12] Constitution 1977, Article 75.
[13] Constitution Article 5(3); National Elections Act, 12 (but see 21A iro Zanzibar); 15(5).
[14] National Elections Act, 15A.
[15] National Elections Act, 16. Regulations governing voters' registration and the maintenance of the voters' rolls are issued by the NEC (section 16(2)).
[16] National Elections Act, 11.
[17] National Elections Act, 4C; National Electoral Commission 2000, 4(c). According to EISA director Ilona Tip, funds from donors were basketed and a tender was awarded for voter education for the 2005 election.
[18] National Elections Act, 4C; National Electoral Commission 2015a, 3-6.
[19] Constitution 1977, Article 67(b); National Elections Act, 38(1), 38(1).
[20] Constitution 1977, Article 39; National Elections Act, 30-31, 33. The deposit is refundable if the candidate does not withdraw and obtains 10% or more of the vote (National Elections Act, 33).
[21] National Electoral Commission 2010a, 18-24; National Electoral Commission 2010b.****
[22] National Electoral Commission 2020.
[23] National Elections Regulations, 2; National Electoral Commission 2000, 41. Political parties are required to submit their campaign programmes to the NEC prior to the commencement of the campaign period and adhere to the coordinated programme issued by the NEC (Masterson 2009, 532; National Electoral Commission 2010a, 40, 41.
[24] Election Expenses Act 2015, 2, 7, 10, 26(a).
[25] Constitution 1977, Article 41(7); National Elections Act, 35, 81, 110, 111.
[26] National Elections Act, 7(1), 56(b),(c); Constitution 1977, Article 74(14),(15).
[27] Masterson 2009, 542; National Electoral Commission 2010a, 47, 47A.
[28] Masterson 2009, 542.
[29] National Elections Act, 61(3)(b),(e). Blind voters are issued with tactile voting folders to enable them to cast their votes unassisted (National Electoral Commission 2010a, 54).
[30] National Elections Act, 58(2), 63(2).
[31] National Elections Act, 61(3); National Electoral Commission 2010a, 55.
[32] National Elections Act, 71, 72.
[33] National Elections Act, 35, 82.
[34] National Elections Act, 81.

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AHLUWALIA, P & ZEGEYE, A 2001 "Multiparty Democracy in Tanzania: Crises in the Union" IN African Security Review 10(3), [www] http://www.iss.co.za/Pubs/ASR/10No3/AhluwaliaAndZegeye.html (offline 3 Sep 2020).


EDITORS FORUM WORKSHOP 2010b "Media Code of Conduct for Election Reporting in Zanzibar 2010", [www] http://www.tz.undp.org/ESP/docs/Legal_Documents/Media_Code_of_Conduct_for_election_reporting_Znz2010.PDF (offline 3 Sep 2020).

KIRAVU, RR 2005, 3 "Improving elections in Tanzania", IN Improving the quality of election management, a conference of Commonwealth Chief Election Officers, [www] http://www.thecommonwealth.org/shared_asp_files/uploadedfiles/DB8390B7-7B94-4A89- 8FEB-D514F40AEA25_PaperbyMrKiravu.pdf (offline 3 Sep 2020).

MASTERSON, G 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.


NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION 2000 A Handbook of Tanzanian Electoral Laws and Regulations 2000.


NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION 2010c "Electoral Code of Conduct for the Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillors' Elections", [www] http://www.tz.undp.org/ESP/docs/Legal_Documents/2010_NEC_Electoral_Code_of_Conduct.PDF [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 9 Nov 2010).

NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION 2020 "Maelekezo kwa Vyama vya Siasa na Wagombea kwa Uchaguzi Mkuu wa mwaka 2020", [www] https://www.nec.go.tz/uploads/documents/sw/1595070849-MAELEKEZO%20KWA%20VYAMA%20VYA%20SIASA%20NA%20WAGOMBEA%20KWA%20UCHAGUZI%20MKUU%20WA%20MWAK (offline 1 Sep 2020).


UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME 2016 Compendium of Electoral Laws and Regulations of Tanzania

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