Democracy in Tanzania:30 Years After

In the afternoon of October 12, 2022, the IIAS held the third lecture of the Sub-Saharan African Research Group of the autumn semester of the 2022-2023 academic year online, with the theme of “Democracy in Tanzania: 30 Years After”. The lecture was given by Professor Alexander Makulilo of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of Dar es Salaam University in Tanzania, and Xiao Qijia, a doctoral student of the PhD Program in DCS of Tsinghua University. Many researchers and doctoral students from universities at home and abroad, and people interested in relevant topics attended the lecture.

The lecture was divided into six parts, including the democratic situation in Africa, Tanzania’s political background and democratic transformation, the academic description of Tanzanian democracy, the key problems faced by Tanzanian democracy, and the main observations on Tanzanian democracy. At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Makulilo introduced the situation of democracy in Africa. He pointed out that some studies reported that there was a declining trend in global democratization, and Africa was also among them. Then, he introduced the history of political changes in Tanzania, pointing out that multi-party politics in the early colonial period and today are different and need to be distinguished. On this basis, he focused on the analysis of the multi-party system transformation process in 1992, and pointed out that this is an important top-down democratic transformation period in Tanzania’s political development process.

Later, when talking about the academic description of Tanzanian democracy, Professor Makulilo pointed out that Tanzanian democracy is controversial in the academic community. Although the positions of different scholars may differ, it is worth noting that all the descriptions indicate that there are problems in Tanzanian democracy, and their common starting point is to pursue free and fair elections. In addition, Professor Makulilo introduced the results of the six elections in Tanzania so far. The ruling party has won by a large margin, which is also an important factor causing concern about the fairness of the elections.

Then, Professor Makulilo analyzed the root causes of democracy from two aspects: the colonial heritage and the one party system order in Tanzania. He listed six key democratic issues. First, he called for the establishment of a new constitution, because the value of democratic transformation is determined by institutional change. The second is to institutionalize political parties. The third is election management. This issue is widely controversial in Tanzania. At present, there is a problem that the credibility of the election is declining year by year. The fourth is political culture. Civic culture is crucial to the development of democracy.

Unfortunately, there is no large-scale civic education nationwide so that they can fully understand their obligations and rights. The fifth is corruption, which is still a serious threat to Tanzania’s multiparty democracy and democratic consolidation. The sixth is political inclusion. Despite the large number of women and disabled people, they are underrepresented in the intra party and inter party political processes, and the concept of inclusiveness has not been reflected in practice due to various problems.

At the end of the lecture, Professor Makulilo concluded that there are some challenges in Tanzania’s multiparty democratic politics, including unfair legal and institutional frameworks, low popularity of civic education and other issues. Nevertheless, multiparty democracy is still very popular in Tanzania. He pointed out that changes in institutions and behaviour were particularly important for maintaining and consolidating democracy.

Finally, in the Q&A session after the lecture, Professor Makulilo and the on-site teachers and students had a warm discussion about the political mechanism of the Tanzanian ruling party, the public’s understanding and attitude towards democracy, and the situation of the Tanzanian political opposition.


Alexander Makulilo, Doctor of Political Science, University of Leipzig, Germany, and Professor of Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He used to be a professor and vice president of Dodoma University in Tanzania, dean of the School of Social Sciences of Dar es Salaam University, and director of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of Dar es Salaam University. Published academic achievements include: Tanzania: a de facto one party country (Tanzania: A De Facto One Party State?)、 ‘Watching the Watcher’: An Evaluation of Local Election Observers in Tanzania, Election Management Bodies in East Africa Rebooting Democracy? Political Data Mining and Biometric Voter Registration in Africa, etc.


Text editor: Ding Ruilin
Proofreader: The Sub-Saharan Africa Group
Typesetting editor: Cheng Yao