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There is a way out of this costly ‘democracy’

But as of April this year, the same thing is increasingly becoming possible and probable as the year inches to the middle.

The recent unseating of MPs is a change which shows how indeterminate political future can be even after an election termed as ‘free and fair’.

Though in the wider scheme of things, some were alleged to have bribed, cheated, used foul languages, broken the code of conduct, better a politician who buys an election than one who kills for it? Wasn’t it King Philip 11 of Macedonia (Father of Alexander the Great) who saw bribery and lies as humane substitutes to slaughter?

Similarly, at the end of the elections, those who lost looked like a spent force; some with their claims   that they had been cheated of victory sounded like sour grapes.Some had been beaten in their strongholds, failed to gain ground where they expected.

Eventually, some had called upon their supporters to demonstrate against alleged electoral fraud. Those who won looked as secure as ever in their new positions. To many observers, this was going to be, fresh untampered-with political five year terms had begun.

This was the context of  the political land scape at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 – a demoralised and apathetic losers; a confident and seemingly impregnable winners. But by the end of March this year,the tables had turned. Some Legislators have lost their seats, some have won the cases and remained Members of Parliament.

The judicial equation
Fast forward to 2011,-forty-three election petitions were filed to the 11 registries of the High Court to challenge parliamentary results in the  2010 October 31 general elections. Each petitioner had to cough 5mil/- as application fees, up from 500,000/- previously.

According to  Principal Judge, Mr Fakih Jundu, 43 petitions would cost 2.2bn/- as each case would  cost 52.6m/-, and  the High Court already requested the money from the Treasury  and started hearing the cases in February last year.

Some of the other ordinary cases have so far been affected in terms of the timetable, as the same judges are concentrating on the election petitions to meet the deadline, as the law requires the cases to be completed within two years. But hey, incase of unseating a legislator, the financial obligations by the public coffers are even higher-20bn/- for a bye election.

Fruits?
So far, two Members of Parliament have been unseated from the National Assembly.The high court recently judged that the Member of Parliament of the Sumbawanga Urban Constituency, Mr Aeshi Hilaly (CCM), is no longer MP after nullifying results of the October 2010 election. Prior to that, fiery opposition Chadema cadre Godbless Lema had had his 2010 election as Arusha Urban MP nullified.

While the two have vowed to appeal the rulings,their unseating potentially sets in place a possible bye elections in the two constituents,and perhaps prompt National Electoral Commission to use another 40bn/- tax payers money in organizing a bye election. And before that, the NCCR-Mageuzi had made headlines when they expelled from the party one of their only four MPs, Mr David Kafulila, (Kigoma South).

Subsequently, Civic United Front expelled ‘rebel’ MP Hamad Rashid. Legalities seemed to have subsequently overruled those decisions but the nation was yet to pick another 40bn/- in organising two by-elections. Now, in a quick calculation, 40bn/- can service the Shinyanga Regional Hospital for over 40 years -- and by extension cater for the health of three million Tanzanians in that part of the country for 40 years, according to the current budget settings.

However,the same amount can build schools,hospitals,school equipment,roads among other public goods, lacking in many parts of the country. The nature of democracy is that no one individual can claim monopoly over views. But many would argue that democracy should benefit masses and it should indeed be seen to be benefitting them, far from abstract terms.

Political analysts argue that there is a way out of this costly democracy.Best way is to get a perfect election.While one may argue that there may be nothing like a perfect election, there is a need to set higher standards for our selves and indeed run by those rules, both on the side of the electorate, National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the politicians.

It is indeed true that, with the record 43 petitions filed at the High Court this time round, there is an extraordinary role played by the judiciary in the 2010 election process. For better and for worse, judicial procedures and decisions are playing a role at every stage.

The cases that have been raised over election rules; over nomination of candidates; campaign practices; and election results, indicate to us a weakness in some election procedures but also confirming to us the ‘institutional deficits’ we have, that the more we try to struggle to play with in the rules of the democracy we want, the more we ‘judicialize’ elections.

Theoretical perspectives show us that in constitutional democracies, the judiciary carries an important responsibility for securing the integrity of elections as the main channel of democratic change -by resolving disputes over the rules.

They act as referees of the electoral competition with a mandate to decide complaints and sanction violations of laws and regulations in the course of the elections. We should position our elections as different from what has happened in most of Africa. Many of the actions we take should set the country apart from most of its  contemporaries – thus disproving the prejudices of whether participatory democracy is useful to a peasant down in Shinyanga,Kagera ,Mtwara etc.

It is indeed true that rule evaluation and enforcement, are functions that the judiciary is entrusted with as part of its constitutional mandate and that facilitate elections and enhance democracy, but -Perhaps, a recent announcement by President Jakaya Kikwete that the next  constitution will seriously look at how elections are managed in this country shall come in handy.

For the Constitutional Review Commission, which started its work last week, this is important more especially because those expected to foot the bill of a b-election from such decisions are actually the taxpayers.

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Author: ORTON KIISHWEKO

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