Tanzanians go to the polls on 31 October to elect their President and Members of Parliament for the next five years. Seven presidential candidates will take part in the polls, including the incumbent Jakaya Kikwete who is running for a second term.
Other candidates are Willibrod Slaa and Ibrahim Lipumba of the main opposition parties, the Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendelo (CHADEMA) and the Civic United Front (CUF) respectively.
Kikwete is representing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has been in power since independence in 1961.
The Tanzanian parliament, the Bunge is made up of 232 members that are elected while the remainder is appointed. Under the country's Constitution, there are 75 seats guaranteed for women, representing an additional 30 percent of the figure of elected seats.
The 75 women members are appointed by the National Electoral Commission drawn from lists submitted by the parties in parliament, and based on the number of votes won by the parties represented in parliament.
In the last election, CCM won 206 of the elected seats, that is almost 90 percent of the elected seats in parliament. Kikwete won the presidential election with 80.2 percent of the popular vote.
The CUF won 19 seats with the five going to CHADEMA and one each to the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP).
The national elections are conducted on the same day as those in the Zanzibar islands, where Zanzibaris vote twice, once for the national President and parliament, and once for their own local President and parliament, which is more like local government.
In the Zanzibar elections, the outcome of the polls will usher in a historic achievement that will see the formation of a unity government, which includes a President from the wining party, first Vice President from the second-placed party and second Vice President from the wining party. Ministries are to be allocated on a proportional basis.
CCM has selected Vice President Ali Mohamed Shein as its candidate for the Zanzibar presidential polls. Shein replaces President Amani Abeid Karume, whose second and final term as Zanzibar President ends in October.
CUF will be represented by Seif Sharif Hamad, who is contesting the polls for the fourth time after failed attempts in 1995, 2000 and 2005.
Zanzibar is a part of the United Republic of Tanzania. However, the Zanzibar archipelago, comprising the two main islands of Unguja and Pemba, retains its own governance structure and electoral system in addition to the Union structures.
Zanzibar and Tanganyika, as the mainland was then known, entered into a Union agreement in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania, whose main objective is to build a unified society based on freedom, human rights and peaceful existence.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) has deployed more than 100 observers to monitor the electoral process in three phases, namely, the pre-election, the election and the post-elections.
SADC Director for Politics, Defence and Security, Tanki Mothae said the pre-election period has been peaceful, adding that the atmosphere should prevail throughout the electoral process.
He said a draft report on how the polls were conducted would be released after the elections. This is in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourages Member States to promote common political values and systems.
The SADC observer team is expected to interact with other regional and international missions such as the African Union and European Union that are in Tanzania at the invitation of the government.
The conduct of the different observer missions will be guided by the Constitution and electoral laws of Tanzania. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Bernard Membe has urged observers to adhere to these standards so that the polls are free and fair.
"Observers are expected to be impartial, operate within their mandate and respect the law of the land and authorities responsible for regulating the elections," he said