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Towards 2020 General Elections: Day of reckoning is drawing nigh

IN the context of this article,“day of reckoning” means the 28th day of October, 2020; when the voters of Tanzania, in their millions, are expected to go to their respective polling stations to cast their valuable votes, in order to elect their President, and their respective members of Parliament and of the Local Authority council.

It is a ‘day of reckoning’, in the sense that it will be the time when individual Tanzanians will make their decisions, that may subsequently be judged to have been either right or wrong; plus, should it happen that the majority will collectively have made the wrong decision, then they could subsequently be punished for that wrong decision.

This is due to the fact that, as has been revealed in this column before, “elections have their consequences”.

Elections have conseq uences The statement that “elections have consequences”, was made by one senior American Diplomat, in relation to Kenya’s 2013 general election.

His statement was intended to be a warning to the voters of Kenya, that they would face unpleasant consequences “if they made the mistake” of electing Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, and his running mate William Ruto, both of whom had been arraigned before the International Court of Justice (ICC), for their alleged role in the post-election violence, which had rocked many parts of Kenya following the disputed results of the previous (2007) general election.

That statement was premised on the condition that the voters “will make a mistake”.

Hence, in our own circumstances, the reasonable presumption should be, that the voters will not make any mistakes for, thanks to our very extensive ‘voter education’ campaigns; they are presumed to know how to make the right choices.

However, in the most unlikely event that the voters will indeed, perhaps unwittingly, collectively “make a mistake”, say, for example, of electing a ‘botched’ election, then yes; such election can produce certain undesirable consequences, including dire ones.

A ‘ botched election’ would be that which produces what is known in parliamentary parlance as a “hung Parliament”; i.e. a Parliament in which the Government has only a minority of MPs, and will have therefore be severely constrained in its operations.

Fortunately, thanks to our voter education campaigns, a ‘hung Parliament’ is a most unlikely occurrence in our jurisdiction.

This is largely because our voters are being sufficiently sensitized to the concept of the symbolic “mafiga matatu” (the three cooking stones); where the voters are urged to vote for the same-party candidates for the President, Member of Parliament, and Member of the Local Authority Council. This concept is what avoids the possibility of a “hung Parliament” being elected.

But, the American Diplomat quoted above was referring to an entirely different event which occurred in Kenya, not really as a result of “mistakes” made by the voters of Kenya, but was the result of certain criminal actions deliberately committed by the ‘ losers’ of that general election, who just refused to accept its results, and started causing big trouble!

Elections can indeed have adverse consequences. However, even in those circumstances where the voters have committed no mistakes, elections may still have adverse consequences.

In our own electoral history, we have had some adverse ‘election consequences’, arising from cases of “election boycotts”; which were deliberately organized by the Civic United Front (CUF) in Zanzibar.

An “election boycott” is defined as “the refusal to take part in an election, as a way of protesting, or showing strong disapproval, against it”. We have indeed, in the past, experienced several such ‘election boycotts’ taking place in Zanzibar.

Thus, although at the present moment, there is no possibility of such danger, that the forthcoming 2020 general election might be boycotted, but still, purely as a precaution, the point of this presentation is to issue a gentle warning to the stakeholders, that such ‘election boycotts’, whenever they have occurred (on the usual flimsy excuse that the elections will not be free and fair); they have always produced their own adverse consequences.

They should therefore be carefully avoided. They include the following categories:- ( i) The irresponsib le ab andonment of a legal ob ligation.

“Election boycotts” are normally organized by political parties which should, or ought, to have participated therein And, in the context of or political system, political parties have an implied obligation to participate in national elections.

This obligation, is created by the definition itself of “political parties” which is provided in the Political Parties Act, (no 5 of 1992).

That Act provides as follows:- “Political Party” means any organized group of people formed for the purpose of forming a Government, or a Local Authority, within the United Republic, through elections; or for putting up, or supporting candidates for such elections”.

It is quite clear therefore, in the light of that definition, that the primary purpose, or indeed the raison d’etre), of a political party in Tanzania, is to participate in elections, with a view to acquiring power, either at the national, or the Local Authority level, or both.

Hence, any group which does not have such objectives, does not qualify for registration as a “political party”.

Its status then changes to a ‘ pressure group’, or ‘interest group’, as the case may be. The deliberate act of boycotting an election by any political party is, therefore, an irresponsible abandonment of this legal obligation. ( ii) Its negative impact on democracy.

Modern political thought generally accepts the notion that political parties are absolutely essential to democracy; based on the fundamental principle that ‘democracy gives the majority the right to rule”.

But there is no other way of creating an ascertainable majority without establishing political parties, which can freely in elections for the right to form a Government, by presenting their different policy options and programmes to the electorate, with each party endeavouring to persuade that electorate to vote for their particular policy or program me.

This is the political competition in which the winning party gets the right to form the government of the day. In the British political landscape, this system is known as “government by political party”; and is actually the basis of the British “Westminster model” of governance which was invariably inherited by almost all of the British former colonies and administered territories.

To my little knowledge and understanding, no single political system can claim to be perfect. And this system of “government by political party”, is no exception; for the following reasons:- (a) that a given political party, having been elected to power, may thereafter act viciously towards its political opponents. And the world has seen enough such examples.

(b) that, especially in respect of those jurisdictions where the parties are divided over some fundamental issues, all those who voted for the losing parties (and they could be very many), may be governed for long periods on the basis of policies and programmes with which they disagree; which, obviously, is to their great disadvantage.

(c) that able men and women who are outside the party system, or who belong to minority parties which have no chance of winning an election, can play no effective role in the governance system of their country.

However, within the United Kingdom itself from where this system originated, such difficulties appear to have been satisfactorily resolved; for in their case, the system appears to be working normally.

Some of their general elections have indeed produced “hung Parliaments”; but such difficulties were quickly resolved by forming functional ‘coalitions’ between different parties, which enabled their Governments to obtain the necessary Parliamentary majority of MPs, thus enabling their Parliament to function normally.

And for those of their citizens who cannot play an effective role in the governance of their country (because they belong to minority parties that have no chance of winning an election, or are outside the party system); these, presumably, have developed a “culture of tolerance “; and are happy to live with that system, despite its disadvantages.

Our recurring difficulties in operating this system It has been my constant contention that, because in many of our ex-colonial communities, there is a serious lack of the requisite “multi-party political culture”, this deficiency has, inevitably, caused difficulties in operating this system in our respective countries.

A case in point is Zanzibar, the other partner of the United Republic of Tanzania, which has had an unfortunate history of endless post-election disputes, ever since their first multi-party Presidential election, that was held soon after this system was re-introduced in our country, way back in 1995.

The problem in 1995 was caused by certain suspicious actions taken by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) during the counting of the Zanzibar Presidential election votes, particularly the inordinate (and unexplained) delay in the counting of those votes which, understandably, made the Opposition Civic United Front (CUF) highly suspicious, that the reason for this delay was that the Presidential results were probably being “doctored” in favour of the CCM candidate.

This suspicion intensified when the announced results gave the CCM Presidential candidate, a ‘razor-thin majority’ of only 0.4% .

And, as a consequence, CUF refused to recognize these results. It happened again during the next following Zanzibar Presidential election in 2000.

In that case, there had occurred certain serious election irregularities, in all the 16 constituencies of the Mjini Mgharibi Administrative Region, prompting the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to countermand the election in those constituencies; and ordering a re-run of the election in those constituencies, at a later date.

The Civic United Front, on their part, requested a rerun of the entire Zanzibar election, which was refused by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. Upon being denied their request , CUF decided to boycott that entire re-run election; and their action inevitably produced the expected consequences, namely a ‘ negative impact’ on our cherished democracy; simply because a large number of registered voters, (the CUF followers and supporters) were forced to stay away from their allotted polling stations on election day.

That problem re-appeared after the 2005 Zanzibar general election, leading to CUF again refusing to recognize the Zanzibar Presidential election results.

Fortunately in the meantime, both CCM and CUF were engaged in serious talks between them, in search for a viable solution to this continuing problem. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Their efforts were amply rewarded when the two political parties eventually signed the Agreement known as MUAFAKA III; which introduced the concept of establishing a Government of National Unity , or Serikali ya Umoja wa Kitaifa (SUK); whose implementation was effected immediately following the 2010 Zanzibar election.

And the Zanzibar Constitution was amended accordingly, in order to accommodate this provision. Unfortunately, however, the Zanzibar post-election problem of CUF refusing to accept the results of the Zanzibar Presidential election, occurred yet again after the 2015 election; thus disabling Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, from appointing Ministers from CUF, into the Government of National Unity Cabinet.

But since this is now a requirement of the Zanzibar Constitution, we can only hope and pray, that in respect of the forthcoming 2020 Zanzibar general election better wisdom will prevail, and the main losers will be willing to join the Government of National Unity.

( Will continue next week )

piomsekwa@ gmail.com / 07 5476 7 57

EVEN as we wrap up activities for the ...

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Author: PIUS MSEKWA

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