What Tanzania civic polls controversy portends for 2020

The Minister of State in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr Selemani Jafo

Dar es Salaam. Opposition parties and analysts have argued that if the trends observed during preparations towards civic polls--to be held later this month--would pass unaddressed, then they would set a dangerous precedent ahead of 2020 general election.

They warned that there would be serious consequences to the national social fabric if laws guiding elections would remain unchanged to allow free and fair elections including putting in place an independent electoral body.

Main opposition party Chadema’s a Protocol, Communications and Foreign Affairs director John Mrema told The Citizen in an interview that their decision to boycott civic polls has come after having lost confidence in the current system of overseeing elections because it lacks transparency and does not offer a level field for every political party.

By press time yesterday, three opposition parties--Chadema, ACT-Wazalendo and CCK--had issued public announcements that they were opting out of the civic elections slated for November 24 citing numerous irregularities including that of their aspirants being locked out of the contest for reasons that held no water.

“If the laws would remain the same, what is happening in the civic elections will have disastrous consequences in the general election,” warned Mr Mrema during an interview.

He said the ruling party CCM should not celebrate as theirs would not be a victory in the true sense of the word but an act of sabotaging the will of the people, adding that such ‘victory’ was proof that the party was no longer acceptable to the people.

However, the Minister of State in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr Selemani Jafo has since expressed surprise at the move by Chadema to withdraw from the electoral process.

He argued that the move would deny the people their right to elect leaders of their choice.

“Although it is also their right to withdraw, I’m shocked by the decision,” said Mr Jafo.

ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said his party did not agree with the grounds given by election returning officers for disqualifying their aspirants in the polls, a move that meant that aspirants from the ruling party sailed through unopposed.

Mr Kabwe said this as he announced the decision of his party to withdraw from the race yesterday.

A political analyst from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Richard Mbunda, observed that no party has ever withdrew from an electoral process and succeed in its plans. He advised that what opposition parties must do now was to focus on the general election.

“An election is like war and those shortcomings are unavoidable. What the opposition needs to do is to fully prepare to become a competitive side. There would be no cancellation of elections. By opting out, they would lose legitimacy before the public,” he said

Dr Mbunda said he understood the reasons given by opposition parties but now was the time to sit back and plan for the next election.

NCCR-Mageuzi chairman James Mbatia said the local government elections were bigger than the presidential ones as that goes directly to the people.

“So what is happening now is going to sow seeds of hatred, tearing down our social fabric and may result in breach of peace,” he warned calling on all stakeholders to ensure justice and national interests prevailed.