Friday, March 28, 2014

Passionate debate in Assembly on mode of voting

By Bernard Lugongo and Katare Mbashiru The Citizen Reporters

Dodoma. Members of the Constituent Assembly put up a spirited defence of either an open or secret mode of voting yesterday as the House resumed debate after Wednesday’s suspension.

The members continued to take hard positions on the matter even as the reconciliation committee that brought an amendment on the floor to grant choice for either of the voting system to be used as preferred by individual members of the assembly.

The assembly chairman Samuel Sitta and later his deputy Ms Samia Suluhu had a difficult time controlling the members as debate progressed in the evening, with some members taking some ministers head on over the manner in which they were conducting themselves. 

Water ministers Prof Jumanne Maghembe and his Education counterpart Shukuru Kawambwa as well as deputy minister for Finance Mwigulu Nchemba were among members of the cabinet who had to defend themselves yesterday during the heated debate.

Prof Maghembe and Kawambwa stood up to deny they had bribed some CA members drawn from the group of 201 who were appointed outside Parliament.

This followed claims by Nyamagana MP Ezekia Wenje that the ministers had hosted the members at their Dodoma homes and bribed them to influence their support on the matter.  He later was referred to the privileges committee after he refused to withdraw the bribery claim that attracted harsh criticism.      

A CA member, Mr Paul Makonda said the best way to move on with the proceedings was for the CA members to agree on the use of electronic voting system.

“ We have been arguing on the voting system, some of us support open voting system, and no one is ready to change and others stands for the secret voting system, the best way here is for the electronic system,” he said. Ms Rukia Kassim Ahmed (CUF) said there was no way open voting system could provide freedom and right to cast ballot among CA members. She said even the Head of State showed his stand by supporting his party interests when he was inaugurating the CA last week.

“ We witnessed President Jakaya Kikwete last week addressing this CA as if he was talking to his fellow CCM members…now what will happen if some CCM members here vote openly against the party’s wishes?,” she said.

The minister of State in the Office of the Zanzibar Second Vice President, Mr Mohammed Abood Mohammed said there was a plan by some people in the CA to challenge everything in the House. Ms Pamela Simon said applying electronic voting system would lead to cheating and forgery.

Mr Ezekiel Oluoch said the CA was discussing and approving sensitive issues. He said secret voting system would enable every member to exercise his/her right to make decision without being pushed or intimidated.

When crafting the Standing Orders over three weeks ago, the CA put on pending the Standing Orders number 37 and 38 which could determine the type of  voting system.

Those who concurred with the recommendations argued that the proposal by the committee was proper since it considered the issue of compromising between the two disputing parts. At some point, Mr Nchemba found himself in trouble after he was asked to withdraw a statement that Mr Jussa Ismail Ladhu and Mr Freeman Mbowe were planning to bring secretly in the constitution a provision that supported gay marriage.

Mr John Mnyika said he was disagreeing with the committee’s recommendations.

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