Tanzania’s 2020 Election: Return of the One-Party State Etudes de l'Ifri, Febuary 2021
Beginning with early voting in Zanzibar on October 27, 2020, Tanzanians went to the polls in a general election for district councilors, Members of Parliament (MPs) and the President. As official results began to be declared, it became clear that Tanzania’s long-time ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, had won a landslide.
After significant opposition party gains in recent elections, these results constituted a dramatic reversal and a de facto return to one-party rule. Opposition parties continue to challenge this outcome, denouncing what they affirm was not a genuine election but a state-orchestrated sham.
Reflecting on these dramatic shifts, this study addresses two questions: What explains the election results? And what are the implications for Tanzanian politics going forward? The main point is that the 2020 elections were a result of President John Pombe Magufuli’s efforts to consolidate authoritarian control after he first came to power in 2015.
The study outlines how Magufuli used his first term not only to marginalize opposition parties but also to centralize power within the ruling party. It then examines how these processes intensified ahead of the election, culminating in the official declaration of an overwhelming Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) victory at all levels. The note concludes by discussing the implications of this election outcome for Magufuli’s second term, focusing on his control of parliament and the possibility of a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits.