Since 2015, Tanzania has taken a severe authoritarian turn, accompanied by rising civil disobedience. In the process, it has become a focal point in debates about development and dictatorship. This article contends that Tanzania is undergoing a struggle over its democratic institutions, which is rooted in rising competition within the party system. However, the experience gained through local political contests in Zanzibar have also influenced how government and opposition interact on the national stage. The lessons of Zanzibari politics have helped to produce a nationwide political struggle that, rather than centering exclusively on questions of election process and management, is also focused on the laws that govern freedom of expression.