Tanzania is a United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Zanzibar and the islands have a semi-autonomous government and self- rule over matters which are not controlled by the united Parliament (The Bunge). The Republic’s Government is made up of the President and the Parliament. Both are elected by universal suffrage for a 5 year term.
The Bunge has 232 elected members, of whom 50 come from Zanzibar and the Islands. There are 75 seats which are reserved for women. With various other members the total is 323. The ruling party, CCM has been in power since independence and the very fragmented opposition holds only 43 seats. The opposition does, however, chair some of the important Parliamentary Committees. Elections on the mainland are generally regarded by observers as ‘free and fair’ but this is not always the case in Zanzibar. Transitions between Presidents have been exemplary and a model for the rest of Africa.
The Tanzanian Government is committed to extending local democracy in the 26 mainland regions and 5 in the islands. It is receiving assistance in implementation from Irish Aid.
Elections to the different tiers of local government are held every five years and rules provide that women must hold between 25-30% of all seats. A code of conduct and procedures for officials and councillors exists and provides sanctions for offenders. Citizen participation in the local decision making is encouraged by changes to the Local Government Act of 1982, which provide for Councils to organise public hearings for people to question political leaders and staff. Councils have also been empowered to establish special kinds of service boards, open to all citizens in the area and providing an opportunity to influence service provision.
Despite this, commentators feel that in practice many decisions are still centralised and that it will be some time before local government has much real power. Mayors are not yet directly elected.