Three bills set for parliament as government eyes political, electoral reforms

Former Prime Minister Joseph Warioba speaks during the Political Parties Council in Dar es Salaam yesterday. The meeting discussed the progress of the implementation of recommendations by the Presidential Task Force on Political and Electoral Reforms. PHOTO | Ericky Boniphace

What you need to know:

  • This is part of the government’s implementation of the Presidential Task Force on Political and Electoral Reforms’ recommendations

Dar es Salaam. The government has stated its plan to present three crucial bills during the upcoming parliamentary session, which will begin on October 31, 2023, in an effort to improve the nation’s democratic framework and electoral procedures.

The move is part of the government’s implementation of recommendations by the Presidential Task Force on Political and Electoral Reforms.

Speaking yesterday at a three-day Political Parties Council meeting yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Parliamentary Affairs and Coordination), Dr Jim James Yonazi, named the three bills as the Political Parties Law Amendment Bill, a Bill for the Enactment of the New Elections Law, and the New Electoral Commission Bill.

The Political Parties Law Amendment Bill seeks to revise and update the Political Parties Act to reflect evolving political dynamics and promote party accountability.

It addresses issues such as party registration, internal governance, and campaign ethics. Notably, it introduces measures to enhance transparency in political party financing and operations.

“After the bill has been passed by Parliament and signed into law by the President, certain issues will be emphasised through regulations and guidelines,” said Dr Yonazi. While the bill for enactment of the new Elections Law represents a cornerstone of the government’s commitment to electoral reform, it introduces sweeping changes to the electoral process, emphasising fairness, transparency and accessibility.

Key provisions include stricter regulations on campaign financing, enhanced mechanisms for addressing electoral fraud, and measures to streamline and modernise voting procedures.

The bill focuses on enhancing transparency and accountability in government affairs. It includes provisions for the mandatory disclosure of political campaign financing, ensuring that citizens have access to information about the funding sources of political parties and candidates.

The New Electoral Commission Bill, on the other hand, is aimed at fortifying the integrity of the electoral system.

It proposes measures to safeguard against voter fraud, improve cybersecurity in the electoral process, and introduce standardised voting procedures across the nation.

Additionally, the bill seeks to address gerrymandering concerns and ensure equitable representation.

According to Dr Yonazi, this is a vital component of the reform package; the bill proposes the establishment of an independent election commission.

A non-partisan body would oversee the electoral process, ensuring that elections are conducted fairly, free from political influence, and in strict adherence to the law.

The commission’s independence is expected to boost public confidence in the electoral system.

He, however, said that since the independence of the Electoral Commission is clearly outlined in Article 74 (11) of the existing Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, any further changes to the same could be dealt with in the ongoing constitutional review process.

“Regarding the proposal that the performance of the Election Commission be questioned in court, this proposal affects the Constitution, and thus it will be worked on through the ongoing constitutional review process,” he added.

Participants expressed their approval for the implementation of some recommendations by the Presidential Task Force on Political and Electoral Reforms, noting, however, that much more needs to be done. For instance, a delegation from the Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Wazalendo) shared their three demands on top of the government’s proposed bills.

“We continue to demand that a bill to amend the Constitutional Review Act of 2011 in order to restart the process of writing a new constitution be sent to parliament during the 13th session. A committee of experts for reconciling the Warioba draft and the proposed constitution draft should be expedited after the amendment of the Constitutional Review Act,” noted Zitto Kabwe on his part. Adding that there should also be a bill to amend specific provisions of the constitution to effect minimum reforms,

“The bill should be sent to parliament during the 13th session as well,” added Kabwe.

ACT Wazalendo stated that the political party will continue to engage in conversation with the government because it is the most realistic way to achieve the improvements that the country requires.

The introduction of these three bills marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s democratic journey. As they move through the parliamentary debate and approval process, they hold the promise of ushering in a new era of politics characterised by greater transparency, integrity in elections, and accountability in political party operations.

The meeting took place from September 11 to September 13 at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam.

In his remarks, former Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said it was important for the Parliament to meet with political stakeholders and collect their views as the bill gets to the House for debate.

“It may not meet everyone gathered here, but just a representation of them could do,” he said.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Governance, Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee, Mr Joseph Mhagama, said the legislative body has several ways of collecting stakeholders’ views in its law-making process, which, he said, will be followed.

A member of the ruling CCM’s Central Committee, Mr Stephen Wasira, said Tanzania’s peaceful nature has its own history, adding that it was up to Tanzanians to maintain the country’s peace.