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Fresh push for new Katiba: pros and cons of the move

Saturday January 23 2021
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Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe speaks at a press conference about the decision reached by his party of not recognising the results of the 2020 General Election as announced by the National Electoral Commission. PHOTO | FILE

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Opposition political parties have renewed demand for a new Union constitution and an independent electoral commission.

They cited the two as topmost priorities this year, noting that experience from the October 28, 2020 General Election has escalated their demand which is now the basis for the 2025 elections.

There is every possibility that the opposition parties could be united by the new demand for a new constitution - as was the case in 2015 when they formed ‘Ukawa’ - Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution - following the stalled new constitution writing process.

Ukawa enabled opposition parties to field one presidential candidate and support those with potential winning opportunities in different constituencies and councils countrywide.

As a result, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who was Chadema presidential candidate, supported by Ukawa members collected 6,072,848 votes, equivalent to 39.97 percent.

Chadema got 34 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), while CUF got 32 - with NCCR-Mageuzi and ACT-Wazalendo garnering one MP each.

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The CCM presidential candidate, President John Magufuli who emerged victorious collected 8,882,935 votes which is equivalent to 58.46 percent and the ruling party accumulated 188 parliamentary seats. However, last year the National Electoral Commission (NEC) declared re-election of President Magufuli after collecting 12,516,252 votes out of the 14,830,195 valid votes cast: 84.4 percent.

He was followed by Chadema’s Tundu Lissu who collected 1,933,271 votes: 13.04 percent.

ACT-Wazalendo’s presidential aspirant Bernard Membe garnered 81,129 votes, while Leopold Mahona (NRA) and Prof Ibrahim Lipumba (CUF) gathered 80,787 and 72,885 ballots respectively.

However, the announced election results were disputed by Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo over what they called widespread irregularities.

The new move by opposition parties could be triggered by last year’s election results, therefore trying to put pressure in addressing the root cause of the problem. Consolidating their arguments, opposition political parties say the 1977 Union Constitution is outdated and based on the single political party system.

According to opposition political parties, the constitution was unfit during the era of pluralism reinstated in 1992 because major changes in the transformation were not accommodated and therefore favours the ruling CCM.

Similar concerns were given in recommendations from Judge Francis Nyalali Commission that suggested means of building a democratic society that abide by the rule of law, good governance and respect to principles of human rights.

In his New Year (2021) message, Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe pledged that his party will intensify the struggle for a new constitution and an independent electoral commission this year.

He said the new constitution writing process that stalled after the adoption of the Proposed Constitution should be reinstated immediately. The former Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament said the new constitution should provide discipline and boundaries of the president’s freedom in executing his duties, suggesting that it would be wiser for the Head of State to lead the way.

“Chadema cadres, members and supporters - as well as the general public - should consider the issue of new constitution as a universal demand for 2021,” he said.

According to him, Tanzanians have the responsibility of leading struggles for the new constitution through participatory ways both nationally and internationally.

“We declare 2021 as the year to revive the new constitution writing process that will enable us to cure past and present political wounds,” he said in a recorded video speech.

He observed that efforts to change the president’s term limits should be discouraged at all efforts.

However, President Magufuli has several times expressed his position to observe the country’s constitution and leave State House after expiry of his second leadership term.

In their New Year messages delivered on January 1, 2021, ACT Wazalendo and CUF declared the new constitution and independent electoral commission as their priorities this year.

CUF pledged to use all its powers to ensure the document is provided and independent electoral commission is formed in order to promote democracy and address human rights challenges facing the country.

At the end of 2020, CUF held a conference aimed at educating party cadres and members on the significance of the two, promising intensified struggles in 2021.

“We are ready to cooperate with other stakeholders of democracy, human rights, legal matters, constitution, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), human rights, political parties and the general public in our struggles,” reads the CUF statement. But, ACT-Wazalendo secretary general Ado Shaibu told Mwananchi that major changes were required following election irregularities that occurred last year.

He said the political opposition might have not worked to address the cause of past problems which include absence of independent electoral commission and the new constitution that are important in determining the new lives of Tanzanians.

“The challenge is how independent electoral commission and the new constitution will be provided under the present environment. We are still contemplating to determine the best ways of getting the wishes before communicating to the public,” he said.

He added, “We have a responsibility to push CCM and its government to recognize this important demand that comes from citizens and not from an individual or a single political party.”

However, President Magufuli’s position is that the new constitution wasn’t among his priorities, despite having been included in the CCM election manifesto 2015-2020. The promise has been excluded in the party’s 2020-2025 election manifesto.

Addressing a meeting of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) on January 16, NCCR-Mageuzi national chairman James Mbatia said adopting a new constitution cannot be avoided.

He said the new constitution will provide the country with independent and respected electoral commission and prevent what transpired during October 28, 2020 elections that has plunged the country into deep darkness. “The deeper the darkness, the nearer the dawn. Therefore, based on last years’ experience, Tanzania is close to getting the new constitution it needs,” he said.

According to him, the government, judiciary and the parliament were the products of the country’s constitution; therefore the document isn’t written from their favour.

A political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Richard Mbunda, said the opposition erred in their role in the stalling of the process in 2015 because despite losing in some issues they gained in key areas.

“For instance, the document had articles that allowed the formation of independent electoral commission and eliminating District Executive Directors (Deds) from overseeing elections.

“Also, it provided room for challenging presidential elections to be challenged at the court,” he said, adding. “Opposition parties lost important opportunity following the stalled process. I would like to hear them striving for completion of the process instead of starting the process afresh because the two issues have been taken care in their advantage.”

The Ruaha Catholic University (Rucu) political science lecturer, Prof Gaudence Mpangala, said the new constitution and independent electoral commission was the opposition’s long time demand.

Despite being recommended by the Nyalali Commission, it was not until 2011 when former President Jakaya Kikwete’s administration initiated the process under the chairmanship of Judge Warioba.

“This process is important because the 1977 constitution is out-dated. My advice is that Judge Warioba’s Constitution Draft should be improved upon for the country to secure the much needed document,” he said.

Dar es Salaam city-based Sankuta Kasessabunga warned of the risk the opposition were taking by demanding a new constitution.

“This may bring them results that they wouldn’t want. CCM has the majority of members in Parliament. This being the case, they can pass anything into law.

“They may give the opposition what they want - a new constitution - but one that doesn’t include any of the issues that the opposition would like to see included - including limiting presidential powers,” he said.

“It is important that they are clear in their demand, and not just a new constitution, but going back to the Second Draft of the Warioba Constitution,” he observed.


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