Why does Zanzibar have its own president

Political deadlock in Zanzibar

#WhatWouldMagufuliDo is still one of the most popular hashtags in Tanzania to this day. On Twitter, the young generation is celebrating frugal President John Pombe Magufuli with amusing suggestions on how to cut unnecessary expenses in their own lives. Magufuli emerged victorious from the presidential election on October 25, 2015. In the first few weeks of his tenure, he said he cut unnecessary government spending such as pompous independence celebrations and business class flights for ministers.

While Magufuli is cleaning up properly, the Zanzibar Archipelago, which belongs to Tanzania, is at a political standstill. Zanzibar is made up of the islands of Unguja and Pemba and has a special status as a semi-autonomous state. In addition to the state president, who is responsible for the entire country, there is a separate president there for the interests of Zanzibar. So far, this post has always been held by a member of the Revolutionary Party (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, CCM). The closest competitor is the Civic United Front (CUF), which has been the CCM's junior partner in the Zanzibari government since 2010.

The accusation: electoral fraud

Zanzibar's president should also be re-elected on October 25th. But the electoral commission canceled the vote without announcing a result. In some polling stations the number of votes cast exceeded those of the voters, so the reasoning of the commission chairman Jecha Salim Jecha. Election observers were also excluded from the count. In addition, the CUF is said to have manipulated ballot papers, especially on the island of Pemba.

Sees himself the winner: Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad

CUF chairman Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad did not wait for the official results of the election commission, but declared himself the winner the day after the election. The 72-year-old ran for the fifth time. In the last elections in 2010, his rival Ali Mohamed Shein from CCM won by just 3471 votes. Also this time the two competed against each other.

But the ultimate test for Zanzibar

The CCM is now calling for new elections for Zanzibar. The CUF has already announced that it will boycott them. She continues to insist that she has won the elections. Talks between CCM man Shein and Seif Sharif Hamad from the CUF have been going on for weeks, so far without any results. The public does not know anything about what is going on behind the scenes. Now Shein spoke up for the first time after weeks of silence to confirm that he was still the rightful president of Zanzibar. According to his rival Seif Sharif Hamad, Zanzibar has been leaderless since November 2nd, the day the president's mandate officially expired.

Still sees himself as president: Ali Mohamed Shein

The Constitution does not give a clear answer to what to do in such a case. It would now be up to the CUF to bring an action to the highest court in order to get legal certainty. But concerns that the judiciary would decide in favor of the ruling party has so far prevented them from doing so. "To me it seems as if Shein is telling us Zanzibaris that he has the monopoly of power anyway and that we cannot do anything against him," complained lawyer Fatma Karume in an interview with DW. "He gives us the impression that he doesn't care about our votes."

The political crisis puts Zanzibar to the acid test: Since the 1990s, there have been repeated clashes with dead and injured between supporters of the CCM and the CUF in the course of elections. To prevent new violence, both parties have been forming a government of national unity since 2010. The thread of the conversation between the CUF and the CCM must not break under any circumstances, warns Hubertus von Welck from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who was an election observer in Zanzibar. "If there is no negotiated solution, then violent confrontations and deaths threaten again."

Food prices are rising

It is still quiet in Zanzibar and since a meeting between Tanzania's President Magufuli and Seif Sharif Hamad at the end of December, the soldiers have also disappeared from the streets. The state administration continues to function, although the CUF has withdrawn its ministers from the joint government and although there is no longer a parliament - because the mandates of the MPs also expired at the beginning of November. What is missing is the democratic control of the authorities.

Basic foods have become expensive

Meanwhile, the economic situation on the archipelago is deteriorating. Beans, potatoes and tomatoes sold there from the mainland have become scarce; the prices increase. The Tanzanian government attributes this to the mismanagement of business people, the poor infrastructure and the excessive bureaucracy involved in imports. In Zanzibar, many blame the political stalemate for this situation: out of fear of political unrest, traders are buying less.

Assistance: Daniel Gakuba