Dar es Salaam. The National Electoral Commission (Nec) has addressed various issues pertaining to updating of the permanent voters register, urging stakeholders to follow the laws and procedures to make the exercise a success.
Speaking at a media workshop that aimed at briefing journalists on the progress of the exercise Nec chairman judge Semistocles Kaijage said the commission is confident that it will meet the requirements of the law of updating the voters’ register twofold before the next General Election in 2020. Nec is also geared to ensure that all important stakeholders, including political parties, civil societies and religious organisations are involved in the mobilization and imparting education to voters to ensure that the exercise goes as planned.
“We involved important stakeholders in creating various registrations pertaining to voter registration and various electoral practices and as of now we have engaged them in imparting education to voters,” judge Kaijage told journalists.
Nec starts in July 4 to update the voters’ register in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions. From there the exercise will move to Mara, Simiyu and Manyara in July 17, according to Nec’s director of Elections Dr Athuman Kihamia.
Dar es Salaam voters will be the last to have an opportunity to update their information in the register. They will get that opportunity in February 19, 2020. Upgrading voters’ information and registration for new voters will be done in seven days for each particular voters registration centre.
“Nec has set aside 37,407 voters’ registration centres in Tanzania Mainland and 407 centres in Zanzibar,” Dr Kihamia notes.
Judge Kaijage noted urged political parties, specifically, to take up the chance and participate fully in the voters’ registration exercise to make it a success.
“Political parties have the right to deploy registration agents in each registration centre, but they should follow the law. Political parties can also help in imparting voters’ education,” Judge Kaijage noted.
So far 24 civil society organisations have been registered and will be allowed to issue voters’ registration.
Foreign observers have been invited, this time around, to participate in the upgrading exercise.
“Nec does not create any laws, it only follows laws that have already been created by the Parliament. And so every stakeholders has the duty to follow those laws,” Judge Kaijage noted.
The duty of registration agents deployed by political parties is to detect unqualified persons for registration and co-operate with the officer in charge of the registration centre to secure smooth compliance with the relevant laws and procedures pertaining to the conduct of the registration of voters, according to the Regulations for Updating of the Permanent National Voters’ Register of 2018.
But to be able to deploy registration agents political parties must notify the Registration officer in writing about the appointment of the agent at least seven days before registration begins, judge Kaijage noted.
“This is important because in the past political parties had complained that their agents were removed from centres without saying why. The reason is that many political parties deploy agents without following the regulations,” Judge Kaijage noted.
What updating entails
Updating of the permanent voters register will entail giving an opportunity to register to Tanzanians who have reached the age of 18 since the last General Election was held in 2015 and those who would reach the age of 18 on the day of the next General Election in 2020. Those who lost their voter identification cards and those whose IDs were destroyed will also get an opportunity to have their cards replaced.
“Updating the voters’ register also provides Nec an opportunity to remove from the roll all those who have lost the rights and qualifications to become voters,” Dr Kihamia says. These include those who died, those who have been confirmed to have mental problems, those who have been jailed for more than six months and those who have been convicted in court for murder.
“It is the duty of all those with information on people who have lost the right to vote to come forward to present the information,” Dr Kihamia says. Tanzanians living outside the country would have to come back and register physically in registration centres as the law does not provide for registration outside the country.
“Tanzanian laws do not provide for Diaspora registration, so those who qualify for registration should come back,” Judge Kaijage notes.
The regulations also provide for applicants who have been denied the opportunity to register by Registration Assistants to forward their cases to Registration Officers. If the Registration Officer sides with the Registration Assistant then the aggrieved can, within 14 days, appeal to the District Court, whose judgement would be final
And if the appellant wins the case then he will have the right to be registered even if the time for registration in his centre has elapsed.
“But it is also the duty of eligible voters to raise objections to people who they think are not qualified to vote. The law details the procedure to follow,” Dr Kihamia notes. People who do not have the Tanzanian citizenship, for example, are not qualified to vote.