Observers query NEC, ZEC transparency

Wednesday October 28 2015

Mission’s Chief Observer, Ms Judith Sargentini
Mission’s Chief Observer, Ms Judith Sargentini
Vote counting has started at Buguruni in Dar es
Vote counting has started at Buguruni in Dar es Salaam City.Photo| Venance Nestory
By The Citizen Reporters

Dar es Salaam. Three key election observer groups released preliminary reports on the Sunday polls, with the European Union (EU) expressing concern about lack of transparency in electoral bodies in the Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.

The EU, however, described the polls as “highly competitive and generally well-organised”, while the African Union (AU) and Sadc observers described the exercise as free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful.

Releasing their report in Dar es Salaam, the EU mission appealed to the electoral bodies and political parties, to safeguard national interests—by ensuring peace and tranquillity—as the counting and announcement of results continues.

They noted that NEC and ZEC did not show full transparency in their decision-making at various stages of the electoral process.

“Stakeholders’ requests to scrutinise the Commission’s activities was not always granted,’’ says the report.

Although NEC has been issuing regular updates on the election through the press, the report says, ‘’these measures were not sufficient enough to build confidence among the political parties about the body’s transparency.’’

According to the report there was little information provided to political parties in Zanzibar about the voter register and constituency boundaries, which, according to the report, adversely affected the confidence of the political parties in the commission and the entire electoral process.

The Mission’s Chief Observer, Ms Judith Sargentini, told reporters that it was too early to say that the situation in Zanzibar would escalate into widespread violence. A presidential candidate on the Civic United Front (CUF) ticket in the Isles, Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, announced his own results before an official statement from the ZEC. This has sparked security fears on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

But the EU chief observer was cautious to predict what the security situation on the Island might be, noting that the EU-EOM had deployed their observer delegations on the ground that was monitoring the situation.

The EU initial report shows that this year’s elections were vigorously contested, and saw the ruling party CCM face a coalition of opposition parties for the first time, fielding a single union presidential candidate.

She also told journalists that the EU mission was closely following up the opposition parties’ claims that a total of 191 of their communication volunteers were arrested in a raid by security agents.

The Chadema presidential candidate, Mr Edward Lowassa, said at  a press conference on Monday that the move by the police to invade their communication centres, and walking away with their equipment, including some vital computer storage facilities without giving solid reasons, was ‘’a serious threat to a free and fair outcome of the election.’’

The head of the observes delegation, Ms Ayalla Sender, told reporters that the National Electoral Commission could take the current election as an important step in consolidating democracy in the electoral process. In its report, Sadc said the Sunday polls were free, fair, transparent, credible, and peaceful.

The team praised the NEC and ZEC for a job well done that made the elections transparent and credible.

“Despite the challenges during the preparations of the General Election, NEC and ZEC were able to professionally organise, conduct and deliver credible elections,” said the head of South African Development Countries (Sadc) Electoral Observation Mission (Seom), Oldemiro Baloi.

Mr Baloi, who is the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister in Mozambique, also attributed the trend to the manner in which people of Tanzania conducted themselves during the electoral process…ensuring peace was not breached.

The Head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said in spite of some tensions and minor incidents, the fundamental rights of candidates, political parties and supporters to assemble and campaign were observed. Dr Jonathan added: “Our overall assessment of the voting process, on the basis of our observations, is that it was conducted in a peaceful, calm, and orderly manner, according to the procedures outlined in the laws of the land,”

He said the electoral environment on the election day was conducive to the free exercise of the people’s franchise and basic freedoms were respected.

Reported by Syriacus Buguzi and Alex Malanga