Dar es Salaam. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) recently nominated eight Civic United Front (CUF) Women Special Seats Members of Parliament (MPs) amid criticism by some media outlets and politicians over irregularities in the process.
As a section of politicians within the CUF criticised the move which perhaps didn’t favour their interests, one tabloid carried an article which accused NEC of having received directives from the Speaker of the National Assembly on how to address the matter surrounding the expulsion of eight party’s special seats MPs and their replacements.
The matter has raised concern within the national electoral body over the need to educate its stakeholders on the subject in a bid to bridge the gap that seems to exist on the people’s understanding of issues related to nomination of women’s special seats member of parliament.
“Perhaps I think it is the lack of understanding among people on one hand, but on the other hand it could be a deliberate move to mislead. It also seems that those who don’t know they are not ready to learn and understand,” says the NEC Director of Elections, Mr Kailima Ramadhani.
He lamented that NEC observed all legal requirements concerning special seats members of parliament as one of the official types of elections another one being that of voting.
“It should be noted that special seats is also a kind of elections according to laws because we have that of voting at polling stations and this one (special seats) which is an outcome of proportional representation,” he said.
Proportional representation is a type of electoral system that decides the make-up of a parliament by allocating seats based on the number of votes each party received.
He further explained his dismay over the misleading pioneers pointing out that some of them were party officials who are well aware of all the procedures.
“Maybe I should first explain where special seats for women come from. In accordance with Article 78 (1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 and laid down procedures, Political Parties in the General Election which won at least 5 percent of all valid votes for Parliamentary Election shall qualify for special seats and these seats accounts for 40 percent of all members of parliament,” he said.
Section 86A of the National Elections Act gives political parties the chance to send the list of individuals whom they want to be nominated as special seats MPs.
“A political party which contests for Parliamentary election held after the dissolution of the National Assembly may propose and submit to the Commission (NEC) names of eligible women candidates for nomination to women special seats,” reads Section 86A(2) of the National Elections Act.
“Therefore in 2015 during general elections we wrote to political parties asking them to furnish us with the names for the purpose in question,” said Mr Kailima.
He pointed out that in the procedures of filling the posts, the Commission allocates the seats to the political parties that have succeeded to meet the 5 percent requirement, and in 2015 the parties that had qualified includes Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Civic United Front (CUF) and Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema).
Section 37 (3) states “where a Member of Parliament resigns, dies or otherwise relinquishes office for reason other than under section 113 (election petition where the court has to decide) the Speaker shall in writing to the Chairman of the Commission, and by notice published in the Gazette, declare that there is a vacancy in the seat of a Member of Parliament”.
Mr Kailima noted that after NEC has received a letter, the next step is taken trough Article 78 (4) of the Constitution which directs that the same list that was presented or submitted by a political party during general elections will be used to fill vacancies but this is done after the Commission has consulted the concerned political party. “The list of the names for the women candidates submitted to the Electoral Commission by each political party for general election shall be the list to be applied by the Electoral Commission after consultation of the party concerned, for purpose of filling any vacancy of Members of Parliament of this category whenever the vacancy occurs during the life of Parliament,” reads Article 78 (4) of the Constitution.
“From the requirement of the law we normally write a letter to a political party, asking them to tell us who among the names in the list that we already have should fill a vacant post. They are required to respond by filling Form Number 8E, we then go on with management procedures of determining whether individuals in the list qualifies for the post and thereafter approve them,” said Mr Kailima.
He added that the criteria for qualifications are normally based on the requirements of the law for one to become an MP but also the fact that the names being presented are in the list which was presented to NEC during general election, adding that NEC does not accept new names.
“Subject to the provisions contained in this Article, any person shall be qualified for election or appointment as a Member of Parliament if he-is a citizen of the United Republic who has attained the age of twenty one years and who can read and write in Kiswahili and English and is a member and a candidate proposed by a political party,” reads Article 67 (1) of the Constitution in part.
“After the vetting we write to the speaker of the National Assembly informing him that we have already made a selection, a letter is also sent to a political party with reference to their application letter informing them that their application has been worked upon and the decision has been made and sometimes we even write letters to appointed MPs…” said Mr Kailima.
He noted further that on the CUF’s case in particular, procedures were followed because “…on the evening of 26th July we received a letter from the Speaker (Speaker of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai) informing the Chairman of the Comission (Judge Semistocles Kaijage) that there are vacancies in the House of CUF’s special seats MPs. On 27th July I wrote a letter to CUF’s secretary general. If the chairman (NEC chairman) writes a letter it is addressed to the party’s chairman, but if I (the Director of Elections) write a letter, I address it to the party’s secretary general”.
He added that in so doing the electoral body always uses the address that was provided by the registrar of political parties because it does not deal with registration of political parties but it rather receives all the details including parties’ names, registration numbers and names of parties’ leaders.
The Director acknowledged the fact that some political parties have more than one address such as CCM (Dar es Salaam and Dodoma) and CUF (Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar).
He however pointed out that for the CUF’s recent case in particular, the letter came from Dar es Salaam and therefore the Commission’s management replied through the same address.
Responding on the claims that the names of appointed MPs did not emanate from the list submitted earlier on, Mr Kailima said that such statements are yet a vivid example on how politicians were deliberately misleading members of public for political reasons known better by them.
“It is alarming because the CUF Secretary General, Seif Sharif Hamad who is claiming that the nominated MPs are not in the list brought by CUF, he is actually the one who signed a paper which bear the very names and was submitted to us (NEC) during 2015’s general election,” he said.
Explaining as to why NEC responded so quickly on the matter in question (the nomination of special seats MPs), Mr Kailima said the laws that guides NEC on nomination procedures does not put a time limit, in other words, the commission is free to make decision as soon as possible. He added that the speed was also shown previously while replacing CCM and Chadema MPs.
Mr Kailima further noted that there was no arrangement on the commission’s ways of operation that allows any discussion or syndicate with the National Assembly or the Speaker on the matters related to nomination of special seats MPs, pointing out that claims that the Commission was acting under pressure from the Parliament were baseless.
“The commission has never, and it will never sit in a meeting with the Speaker to seek his advice on matters related to its jurisdiction. According to the constitution, laws, rules and regulations, we don’t have such a forum. I would like to advice politicians and media houses to be frank and ethical in their approach of issues,” he said.
He elaborated that NEC may consult National Assembly on matters related to introduction of new constituencies in relation to the capacity of the House. He also pointed out that NEC was also collaborating with the government on matters related to facilitation of its operations and security during elections and other activities such as voters’ registration.
“We have been working closely with political parties, they are our crucial stakeholders and we are thus obliged to engage them in every activity such as voters’ registration and elections among others, but this does not mean that they can interfere or influence our independency in decision making..,” he said.
The writer of this article is an information officer of National Electoral Commission (NEC)