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Key findings
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of Tanzanians prefer democracy over any other kind of government, an increase of 21 percentage points from 2014.
  • Large majorities of citizens reject the non-democratic alternatives of one-party rule (69%), one-man rule (92%), and military rule (87%).
  • Most Tanzanians want their leaders to be chosen through elections (80%), support multiparty competition (77%), and see the most recent national elections in 2015 as having been “completely free and fair” or “free and fair with minor problems” (85%).
  • Nine out of 10 citizens (89%) favour a two-term limit on presidents.
  • Almost unanimously (95%), Tanzanians say it is important to obey the government in power regardless of which party one voted for.

Elections are considered a core element of democratic rule (Przeworski et al., 1999). However, in many African countries, the introduction of regular elections has not resulted in liberal democratic reforms and the guarantee of civil and political freedoms (Gyimah-Boadi, 2004; Teshome, 2008).

Since independence in 1961, Tanzania has recorded a history of political and civil stability, including multiparty elections since 1995. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has never lost a presidential election, but close results in the 2015 general election suggest the possible emergence of a more competitive environment. Despite the growing vibrancy of Tanzanian political-party landscape, however, observers have voiced growing concern about the shrinking political space under President John Magufuli’s rule, in particular for civil society and the media (Economist, 2018; Ahearne, 2018; Mbowe, 2016; Wolfe, 2018). The next presidential election, in which Magufuli could seek his second term, will take place in 2020.

Against this setting, this dispatch examines ordinary Tanzanians’ views on electoral democracy. Findings from Afrobarometer’s most recent survey show that Tanzanians overwhelmingly support democracy, high-quality elections, multiparty competition, and a two-term limit for presidents.

Thomas Isbell

Post-doctoral research fellow and research assistant at Afrobarometer