Morning Brief

Tanzania Votes Today. Its Democracy Is Under Strain.

Critics say a campaign of repression is helping propel President John Magufuli to a second term.

Tanzania's President John Magufuli speaks during the official launch of the party's campaign for the October general election at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania, on August 29, 2020.
Tanzania's President John Magufuli speaks during the official launch of the party's campaign for the October general election at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania, on August 29, 2020. Ericky Boniphace/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Tanzania holds presidential and legislative elections, six days to go until U.S. presidential election, and Iran begins building a new centrifuge plant.

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Tanzania Puts Its Democracy to the Test

Tanzania goes to the polls today to elect a president and to fill the 366 seats in the country’s Parliament. Usually perceived as one of Africa’s model democracies, recent developments have caused human rights groups to question that designation. 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term after winning 58 percent of the vote in 2015, came under fire from Amnesty International earlier this month for building up “a formidable arsenal of laws to stifle all forms of dissent and effectively clamp down on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

The opposition. Magufuli is going up against Tundu Lissu, the opposition candidate who recently returned to the country in July after three years in exile. His exit from Tanzania in 2017 was prompted by an assassination attempt during which he was shot 16 times. Lissu, already facing an uphill battle against the incumbent, was banned from campaigning for seven days earlier this month after the country’s electoral commission (itself appointed by Magufuli) charged him with using “seditious language” on the campaign trail.

Avoiding COVID. Lauded for his success in developing Tanzania’s infrastructure, Magufuli has had a less than concrete approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic: Tanzania has not submitted coronavirus data to the World Health Organization since April. In May, Magufuli fired the head of Tanzania’s national laboratory—the person in charge of leading coronavirus testing. He made headlines in June when he declared the coronavirus had been removed from the country “by the powers of God.”

Peaceful action? Although opinion polls are banned, Magufuli is still expected to triumph. A Magufuli victory is unlikely to come easily, however: Lissu has said the opposition was “not going to accept stolen elections,” but has said any response will be peaceful. “We will call millions of our people onto the streets who will take mass democratic and peaceful action to defend the integrity of the election, to defend their voice—if it comes to that,” Lissu told Al Jazeera.

China’s Rare Earth Domination

Unencumbered by the same regulations as its competitors, China has raced ahead of the rest of the world in the production and control of rare earths, the metals and alloys used in many high-tech devices. That’s the argument put forth by Jamil Hijazi and James Kennedy in their latest piece in Foreign Policy, “How the United States Handed China its Rare Earth Monopoly.” The chart below shows just how quickly China has come to dominate this critical field, to the point where key components in U.S. weapons manufacturing are made using metals derived from China.


What We’re Following Today

Six days to go. As the U.S. presidential election approaches, Donald Trump holds two rallies in Arizona, while his vice president, Mike Pence, campaigns in Wisconsin. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris will also be in Arizona, stopping in both Tucson and Phoenix. Joe Biden campaigned in the Republican stronghold of Georgia on Tuesday and his campaign surrogates are launching a bus tour across Texas, another historically Republican state, on Wednesday.

For more on Election 2020 and its international implications, read FP’s in-depth coverage here.

Tech on the Hill. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet’s (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify virtually today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to defend their companies’ content-moderation practices. Tensions are high between lawmakers and Big Tech, with Republicans accusing the internet giants of silencing conservative voices while Democrats are concerned the companies are not doing enough to combat extremism and outside interference from foreign actors.

Poland to strike over abortion ban. Workers across Poland are expected to join a national strike today as protests against abortion restrictions imposed by the country’s constitutional court enter a seventh day. Poland’s right-wing government has so far made no moves to concede ground to the demonstrators. On Tuesday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party said that churches, which have become a target of protests, must be defended “at any price.” He further warned protesters that they were “committing a serious crime” by breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Israel and Lebanon resume talks. Representatives from Israel and Lebanon meet today to continue talks on resolving a dispute over the maritime border between the two countries. The discussions come after Claudine Aoun Roukoz, the daughter of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, was reported as saying that she would “not mind that the Lebanese state makes peace with Israel, after the demarcation and the guarantee of resources.” Speaking Tuesday at a military exercise simulating war with Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he had heard “positive voices in Lebanon that are maybe talking about peace and relations with Israel. These are welcome words.”

Keep an Eye On

Evo’s return. Evo Morales will return to Bolivia on Nov. 9, the day after President-elect Luis Arce is sworn in. Morales’s return will come just over a year after he was forced out of the country. An outstanding arrest warrant for sedition and terrorism issued for Morales was annulled on Tuesday, paving the way for his return. Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters of the right-wing opposition marched on a military barracks on Tuesday asking for “military help” to stop the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party from regaining power.

Iran is building a new centrifuge plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi has confirmed that Iran has begun construction on a new underground centrifuge plant, without providing further details, citing “confidential information.” When finished, the plant would replace one in Natanz destroyed by fire in mysterious circumstances last July.

South African president to self-quarantine. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he would self-quarantine and perform his duties remotely after a guest at a dinner he hosted tested positive for COVID-19. The 35 guests at the dinner all reportedly wore masks and the president only removed his own mask to eat and give a speech. According to a spokesman, Ramaphosa is not experiencing any symptoms and is being screened regularly by the South African Military Health Service.

Scale of Qatar Airways scandal revealed. Female passengers on “10 aircraft in total” were forced into invasive physical examinations at Doha airport on Oct. 2, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday, as the Qatari government apologized publicly and began an investigation into the incident.

The women were removed from flights after a newborn baby was found abandoned in one of the airport bathrooms. The Transport Workers’ Union of New South Wales, whose members service Qatar Airways planes in Sydney, condemned “the brutal attack on the human rights of Australian female airline passengers” and is considering industrial action in response. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a “further response” after reviewing the results of an investigation. He told reporters, “As a father of daughters, I could only shudder at the thought that any woman, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that.”

Cybersecurity and U.S. Election InfrastructureAs voters prepare to cast their ballots in the 2020 election, this FP Insider Special Report analyzes the underreported issue of voting machine infrastructure security, derives insights from other countries’ experiences with foreign interference, and pinpoints what voters and officials can do to strengthen security on Election Day—and beyond. Produced by FP Analytics.

Odds and Ends

Kazakhstan has decided to lean in to its unwanted fame as the home of Borat, the Sacha Baron Cohen creation, by adopting the character’s catchphrase “Very Nice!” as part of a tourism push. The idea to use the catchphrase to promote tourism was thought up by Dennis Keen, a U.S. citizen living in Kazakhstan and swiftly embraced by government tourism officials. “It’s actually the perfect description of the country in the most sincere way. The people and the food are very nice,” Keen said.

Record numbers of Americans are renouncing their U.S. citizenship, according to State Department statistics. The Washington Post reports that in the first six months of 2020, a total of 5,816 Americans surrendered their citizenship. Rather than trying to send a political message, it appears the main factor driving the surge is a desire to avoid paying U.S. taxes, which can apply whether one is living in the United States or not. Even so, many Americans who want to renounce their citizenship have found that embassy and consulate closures due to coronavirus restrictions are making it difficult to sever their ties with the United States.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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