Tanzania is an electoral democracy. The October 2010 national elections were judged to be the most competitive and legitimate in Tanzania’s history. Unlike past elections, the opposition accepted the 2010 results in Zanzibar and Pemba, due in large part to a July referendum providing for the creation of a national unity government after the poll. Executive power rests with the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a maximum of two five-year terms. Legislative power is held by a unicameral National Assembly, the Bunge, which currently has 357 members serving five-year terms. Of these, 239 are directly elected in single-seat constituencies; 102 are women chosen by the political parties according to their representation in the Bunge; 10 are appointed by the president; 1 is awarded to the Attorney General; and 5 are members of the Zanzibar legislature, whose 50 deputies are elected to five-year terms.
Although opposition parties were legalized in 1992, the ruling CCM continues to dominate the country’s political life. The constitution prohibits political coalitions, which has impeded efforts by other parties to seriously contest the CCM’s dominance. Opposition politics have also tended to be highly fractious. The opposition CUF, based in Zanzibar, has sought to establish significant support on the Tanzanian mainland. To register in Tanzania, political parties must not be formed on religious, ethnic, or regional bases and cannot oppose the union of Zanzibar and the mainland. Parties with parliamentary representation receive government subsidies, but they criticize the low level of funding and the formula by which it is allocated.
Corruption remains a serious problem. A 2007 anticorruption bill gave the government greater power to target abuses in procurement and money laundering, but critics claim it is insufficient. Several high profile scandals, including the controversial purchase of radar equipment from the United Kingdom involving alleged kickbacks to Tanzanian government officials and businessmen, were the focus of considerable press attention in 2010.Tanzania was ranked 116 out of 178 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press. Print and electronic media are active, but their reach is largely limited to major urban areas. The country has more than 50 regular newspapers, including 17 dailies. The growth of broadcast media has been hindered by a lack of capital investment, both public and private. However, a number of independent television and private FM radio stations have gone on the air in recent years. Observers noted a bias toward the ruling party in most, but not all, media during the 2010 campaign. While the number of journalists has significantly increased, they must work under very difficult conditions with little compensation. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing.
Press freedom rights in Zanzibar are constrained by its semiautonomous government, which has not permitted private broadcasters or newspapers. However, many islanders receive mainland broadcasts and read the mainland press. The Zanzibari government often reacts to media criticism by accusing the press of being a “threat to national unity.”
Freedom of religion is generally respected in Tanzania, and relations between the various faiths are largely peaceful. In recent years, however, religious tensions, especially between Muslim and Christians, have increased. The Zanzibari government appoints a mufti, a professional jurist who interprets Islamic law, to oversee Muslim organizations. Some Muslims have criticized this practice, arguing that it represents excessive government interference in the exercise of religion. Academic freedom is respected in the country.
The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and association. However, these rights are not always respected, particularly in Zanzibar, where on several occasions in 2010 authorities either banned demonstrations or arrested peaceful protestors. Organizers of political events are required to obtain permission from the police. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, and some have influenced the public policy process. However, the 2002 NGO Act has been criticized for increasing government control over NGOs and restricting their operation.
Less than 5 percent of the labor force is unionized, and workers’ rights are limited. Essential workers are barred from striking, and other workers are restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. Workers are reportedly dismissed for involvement in trade union activity, and strikes are often declared illegal. In 2010, private bus and postal workers engaged in short-term strikes. According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions,Zanzibar has outlawed strikes completely.
Tanzania’s judiciary has displayed some signs of autonomy after decades of subservience to the one-party CCM regime, but it remains subject to considerable political influence. Arrest and pretrial detention rules are often ignored. Prisons suffer from harsh conditions, including overcrowding and safety and health concerns, and police abuse is common. Narcotics trafficking is a growing problem, especially given the challenge of controlling Tanzania’s borders. In its 2010 report, a Tanzanian NGO, the Legal and Human Rights Centre, expressed concern over an increase in the number of extrajudicial killings; 52 were reported for the year up from 15 in 2009.
The 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act has been criticized by NGOs for its inconsistencies and anomalies. Acts of terrorism include attacks on a person’s life, kidnapping, and serious damage to property. The law gives the police and immigration officials sweeping powers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants or anyone thought to have links with terrorists.
Tanzania has enjoyed relatively tranquil relations among its many ethnic groups. The presence of refugees from conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, has raised tensions in the past. According to the 2009 World Refugee Survey, approximately 320,000 refugees remain in the country, though Tanzania was praised in April 2010 for granting citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees. Albinos are subject to violence and discrimination. The first albino murderconvictions were obtained in September 2009, and the first albino was elected to parliament in 2010.
Women’s rights are constitutionally guaranteed but not uniformly protected. Nevertheless, women are relatively well represented in parliament, with over 30 percent of seats.Traditional or Islamic customs that discriminate against women prevail in family law, especially in rural areas and in Zanzibar, and women enjoy fewer educational and economic opportunities than men. Domestic violence against women is reportedly common and rarely prosecuted. Human rights groups have sought laws to bar forced marriages, which are most common among Tanzania’s coastal peoples.