Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Dimani By-Election: Renewed CUF-CCM Rivalry

CUF and CCM parties will renew ‘hostilities’ in the Dimani parliamentary by-election on 22 January 2017. Dimani’s MP Hafidh Tahir (CCM) passed away in November 2016 and the by-election will be a battle between Zanzibar’s two major political parties. At the launch of the campaigns, both parties took a dig on each other with the controversies of the 2015 General Elections still a topical issue. CCM’s Secretary General Abdulrahman Kinana at the launch of CCM’s campaigns took a swipe at CUF’s leader Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad asking him to “resign” from the party after years of failure to secure the presidency in Zanzibar. Kinana also allayed the street talk that Maalim Seif would be one-day declared president stating that CUF has to wait until 2020 for another election. On his part, Maalim Seif labeled Kinana’s message as “absurd” further saying that “Kinana doesn’t know what is happening in Zanzibar.” CUF will be looking to win the Dimani by-election in order to boost their otherwise waning political influence in Zanzibar after boycotting the 2016 reelection. CCM will want to reclaim the seat and send a message to CUF.
A CUF supporter

2015 General Election Intrigues

The annulment of the elections in October, 2015 in Zanzibar rekindled political fissures and fault lines that had been muted as a result of the reconciliation agreement and formation of a unity government in 2010. A subsequent reelection in March, 2016 further plunged Zanzibar into political uncertainties. The Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Jecha Salim annulled the 25 October 2015 elections which by all means was unconstitutional and the decision was seen as a political move to spare the ruling party CCM’s blushes – all pointers showed that it was going to lose with the main opposition CUF headed for an outright victory. Nonetheless, the decision was made to annul the elections and have a reelection. Jecha’s decision was a personal one and was not consultative as admitted by two ZEC Commissioners from the CUF side. Jecha cited massive irregularities in the elections as the reason for the nullification of the elections.

The international observer missions as well as representatives of different foreign missions in Tanzania condemned the decision but that did not deter the electoral body’s decision to have a new election. CCM and CUF got into inter-party negotiations to help resolve the impasse but ZEC made an announcement in January 2015 to have a fresh election in March, 2015. CUF and eight other opposition political parties announced that they would boycott the reelection. CUF maintained that its candidate Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad had defeated CCM’s Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein. CUF indicated that their tallies showed that they had garnered 52.84% of the vote as opposed to Shein’s 46.28%.

CCM’s Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein was declared winner in the reelection on 20 March 2015 by a whooping 91.4% with CCM winning all the seats in the House of Representatives. The results showed increased support for CCM as compared to the October 2015 elections – an indication of a probable manipulation of the results. For example, in Chumbuni constituency in Unguja CCM had received 4,892 votes in the October 2015 but figures in the reelection showed that the party got 8,954 votes an increase of 4,062 votes. The inflation of figures for Pemba, an area that CUF enjoys massive support were even more contemptible with CCM share of votes increasing by over 50,000 as compared to the October elections. It was argued that ZEC did this in an attempt to legitimize the election which witnessed very low turnout as evidenced by the writer. ZEC declared Ali Mohammed Shein winner on 21 March 2015, a day after the election – having failed to declare a winner for three days before the fateful annulment on 28 October 2015.
Kinana with CCM candidate for Dimani

End of GNU

Shein was sworn in as president and appointed three members from the fringe opposition parties to cabinet. The appointments were seen as a recourse to the demise of the Government of National Unity (GNU). The GNU was negotiated largely to accommodate CCM and CUF in a consosciational democracy format. CCM and CUF are Zanzibar’s two biggest political parties. Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein reappointed Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi as the Second Vice President based on the 2010 GNU agreement popularly known as the Maridhiano (Reconciliation) Agreement. The position of the First Vice President, a constitutional position reserved for the party that comes second in the election. That notwithstanding, the Shein-led government opted not to fill the position. The spirit of the reconciliation was officially dead. It was widely expected that the House of Representatives (HoR) would dismantle the GNU due to their absolute majority.

For example, Section 80 of the Constitution of Zanzibar looks at the change of the constitution and the powers of the House of Representatives therein. While Section 80A(1) of the constitution states that “without considering the provisions of Section 80 of the constitution, the House of Representatives cannot make any constitutional changes regarding any provision in any section as outlined in subsection (2) of this section, only if the changes are approved by people through a referendum.” According to 80A these are all sections in the First Chapter of the constitution, Section 9 (Government and the People), all sections in Chapter Three, Section 26; Section 28; all sections of Part II and Part III of the Fourth Chapter with the exception of Section 49 and 50; and Section 80A; and Sections 121(1) and 123 of Chapter Ten. It is thus significant to observe that Section 9 alluded in 80A is one on the Government of National Unity.
Lowassa joins the launch of CUF campaigns in Dimani
Further, in Section 80A(3) of the Zanzibar Constitution, any Section mentioned in 80A(2), can be changed without a referendum in the event the House of Representatives through a Special Declaration passed and supported by two- thirds (2/3) of the Members present and voted, are satisfied that the changes envisaged are in order and that the issue at hand will not affect the principles of the said section. It is with this section that an absolute CCM majority HoR can decide to amend the constitution and terminate the GNU format completely. However, the Section states that “the [Section] should outline openly the issue that is of controversy and must not affect principles of the said section.” The GNU framework as outlined in the constitution provided an opportunity to reconcile the isles after decades of political schisms between CCM and CUF.
Politically, CCM was not ready to risk an international wrath by dismantling the GNU. CCM has subtly opted to run the government without openly discussing the possibility of getting rid of the GNU. CUF had vowed not to recognize Dr. Shein as president and at one time called for civil disobedience by urging its supporters not to pay taxes and fess to an ‘illegitimate government’.
CUF would want to use the Dimani by-election to rekindle their hopes for political practicality in Zanzibar as they prepare for the elections in 2020. CUF supporters would want to see their party reclaim its rightful place in the politics of Zanzibar having been out on the dry since the March 2016 reelection. Dimani constituency remains a tricky area for CUF to win but the party will be looking to put up a strong fight. CCM will be looking for bragging rights if they reclaim the Dimani seat.   

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