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Special Edition of the Departures Podcast with Dan Paget on Tanzania’s Botched Election

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020 the Republic of Tanzania held presidential elections. Though many feared that it would be neither free nor fair, what came to pass was much worse than could have been imagined. Robert Amsterdam, the host of this podcast, acts as an international attorney for the main opposition candidate in this election, Tundu Lissu, so consider that a disclaimer that we are not objective.

We did however seek out an expert voice to talk about what is happening in Tanzania and why. Dan Paget, a professor at the University of Aberdeen and the author of numerous academic articles on President John Magufuli and the politics of Tanzania.

“My reaction is one of shock, whether we predicted it or not,” says Paget in the interview with Amsterdam. “It’s a ‘pinch yourself moment’ when an election appears to be rigged on this scale and rigged with such audacity, rigged in some ways so blatantly, and in many cases so amateurly, while on top of that, while the election results are still being counted.”

“The day-to-day oppression and harassment of the opposition has been a constant feature of Tanzania politics, but never on this scale, not since 1995,” says Paget. “So I think that there has been a sea change in the degree of authoritarianism.”

During the podcast interview, Paget highlights the view that Magufuli is seeking to make opposition to the state party “inconceivable.” Why else would the government move to decapitate the most well known opposition leaders in their own strongholds with so little credibility of doing so?