Tanzania: Electoral Code of Conduct

Updated November 2020

An attempt by the NEC to introduce a voluntary Code of Conduct in 1995, with the reintroduction of multi party elections, was unsuccessful: "The NEC proposed a draft outline for such a Code, but opposition parties roundly rejected the document as a CCM [ruling party] 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 (Masterson 2009, 547). However, the NEC issued the contents of the Code as directives (NEC 1997, 89-100). By the 2000 election a Code was formulated by the NEC in consultation with the political parties, but only eight of the 13 registered parties signed it while 5 others stood aloof (NEC 2001, 19). A "Code of Ethic for Elections" was agreed on and endorsed in 2005 by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the government and 16 of the 18 registered political parties, the NCCR-MAGEUZA and the DP failed to sign (NEC 2005, 27, Appendix 3; 2006, 62).

In July 2010, in preparation for the elections due in October, the NEC issued the "Code of Ethic for Elections" ("the Code") as a set of regulations binding on parties and individual candidates, warning that parties that did not sign the Code would not allowed be engage in campaigning; 14 of the 18 parties signed the Code, while four others expressed reservations (Daily News 2010). A new provision, that Kiswahili be used as the language for campaigning and that translators be used for local languages proved to be a sticking point for those refusing to sign. Sanctions imposed for failure to adhere to the Code included fines and the disqualification of candidates that were persistent offenders (Kagashe 2010).

In the Introduction to the Code of 2005, the document lays out the purpose of Code, namely to "sustain fairness, mutual understanding and tolerance among stakeholders and guarantee peace and tranquility throughout the electoral process" (Code 2005, 1.0). The Code addresses three main areas, Ethics for Political Parties and Candidates, Ethics for the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and Ethics for the National Electoral Commission.

Political parties

The Code lays out the following acts that ought to be done by parties and candidates during campaigning (Code 2005, 3.1):

  • All should respect the right of other parties and candidates to exist and to conduct campaign meetings.
  • All should adhere to programmes laid out by the NEC and its agents for the coordination of political meetings.
  • Public meetings should be conducted between 08:00 and 18:30.
  • Loudspeakers should only be used between 07:00 and 19:00.
  • Campaign material and publications should be vetted by the NEC (presidential candidates) or Returning officers (other candidates).
  • Parties and presidential candidates should use the procedures and modalities laid out by the NEC when using the public media.
  • Party leaders must make plans for educating and supervising supporters to avoid breaches of the peace.
  • Parties and their supporters should respect the environment when posting or distributing materials.
  • Campaign meetings should be peaceful and without religious, tribal, ethnic or sexual discrimination. They should be conducted in Swahili and a translator used where Swahili is not understood.
  • Parties should not use religious sites for meetings or solicit religious leaders to campaign on their behalf.
  • Meetings should be used to publicise policy and not to foment hatred, confrontation or division amongst Tanzanians.

The following acts that ought not to be done by parties, candidates and supporters during campaigning (Code 2005, 3.2):

  • People should not cause chaos or disorder at the meetings of others.
  • Language which is abusive, defamatory, belittling, threatening or that incites disorder or violence should not be used.
  • No weapons may be carried to public meetings.
  • No statutes or caricatures intended to ridicule, revile or scandalise should be carried at public events.
  • Loudspeakers are banned between 19:00 to 06:00.
  • The media should not be used to defame others.
  • Campaign materials of others should not be deface, removed or destroyed.
  • Nothing should be posted on private property without the express, prior consent of the owners.

In regards to voting and the announcement of election results (Code 2005, 3.3, 3.4):

  • All shall cooperate at polling stations to facilitate voting and maintain tranquillity.
  • Party leaders must educate their voters to leave polling stations after voting to avoid crowding, violence or breach of peace.
  • Party agents, subject to NEC direction, may accompany ballot boxes to addition points.
  • All must adhere to and implement directives issued by the NEC to respect the results. Complaints should be directed to the relevant authority in accordance with legal procedures.
  • No campaigning shall be undertaken on election day. Party partisan dress should not be worn.
  • People should refrain from all acts that could cause chaos or commotion at polling stations or counting and addition centres.

The Government

The Code lays out the following acts that ought to be done by the government (Code 2005, 4.1):

  • It should ensure equal opportunity to all stakeholders to engage in political activity.
  • It must ensure peace and tranquillity during elections and provide security for all public events.
  • All parties with presidential candidates should have equal opportunity to use public media.
  • It should ensure that leaders and officials exercise their power within the legally defined limits.
  • It should accept and respect the decisions about results of the NEC and Returning Officers.

The government should refrain from (Code 2005, 4.2):

  • Permitting leaders and officers to abuse their authority or resources for campaigning.
  • Prohibiting or disrupting public events held in accordance with the coordinated campaign programme.
  • Victimising employees because of their party affiliation or ideology.
  • Allowing security organs to oppress political parties, candidates or supporters.
  • Allowing security forces to use excessive force.


The NEC is responsible for planning, supervising and conducting elections that are free and fair and should (Code 2005, 5.1):

  • Ensure compliance with the Constitution and electoral law.
  • Make timetables and notice available before hand.
  • Provide voter education.
  • Provide adequate training to electoral staff.
  • Involve political parties at every stage of the electoral process.
  • Issue timely regulations and guidelines.
  • Rebuke acts by anyone that jeopardise the elections.
  • Coordinate the use of public media for presidential candidates and their political parties to provide equal opportunities for all.
  • Conduct elections transparently and professionally.

The NEC should not (Code 2005, 5.2):

  • Favour any party or candidate
  • Change programmes unilaterally.
  • Delay declaration of the results unnecessarily.

Implementation of the Code

The Code is to be signed by the leaders of parties, a Government representative and the NEC; signatories will educate the public on the Code (Code 2005, 6.0(a),(b)). An Ethics Committee will oversee implementation of the Code, consisting of a NEC Commissioner as Chair and a representative from each other signatory (Code 2005, 6.0(c)).


DAILY NEWS 2010 "14 parties sign electoral code of conduct",27 July.

KAGASHE, B 2010 "What the Elections' Code of Conduct Will Do", AllAfrica.com, 24 August, [www] http://allafrica.com/stories/201008240955.html [opens new window] (accessed 7 Sep 2010).

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 (NEC) 1997 The Report of the National Electoral Commission on the 1995 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, The United Republic of Tanzania.

NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (NEC) 2001 The Report of the National Electoral Commission on the 2000 Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillors Elections, The United Republic of Tanzania.

NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (NEC) 2005, A Handbook of Tanzania Electoral Laws and Regulations 2005.

THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (NEC) 2006 The Report of the National Electoral Commission on the 2005 Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillors Elections, The United Republic of Tanzania.

THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (NEC) 2010 "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 (offline 6 Nov 2020).