As Tanzanians go to cast their ballots on Wednesday this week, a number of issues still linger in the minds of the electorate, an impromptu survey I undertook about a fortnight ago showed.
Generally, the issues have something to do with how to realise broader electoral democracy well into the future.
Some 29,188,347 Tanzanians registered to vote in Wednesday’s elections this year, doing so at 80,155 polling stations across the United Republic.
The elections are for 264 members of the Union Parliament, 50 of whom must come from the semi-autonomous part of the Union, Zanzibar.
Added to that number are more than 100 Women parliamentarians appointed to Women Special seats; ten presidential nominees; five Zanzibaris appointed by the House of Representatives to safeguard the interests of Zanzibar in the Union Parliament, and the Attorney General as an ex-officio member.
This brings to 393 the number of Parliamentarians in Tanzania.
This time round, there are 1,257 candidates for the National Assembly (Parliament) to choose from.
Reportedly, 28 of the contestants – all from the ruling CCM – have essentially been elected unopposed.
The elections in Zanzibar will see to voters electing 50 Members of the local legislative assembly, formally known as the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
At the civic elections level, this year’s poll is about getting 5,350 representatives into local authorities. Reportedly, 870 of them have already made it by being elected unopposed.
Again, it so happens that the unopposed councillors are all CCM members.
If nothing else, this suggests a lack of capacity in the political opposition to field electoral candidates by 100 percent.
It is from these polls that local authority officials are sourced for the 180-or-so local authorities in Tanzania.
Oh… How I wish all elective positions are invariably filled though open, transparent, free and fair elections as a matter of course!
According to the nominations announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on August 25 this year, 15 administrative regions had a number of unopposed candidates. For instance, Tanga Region had two unopposed candidates in Pangani and Bumbuli constituencies.
Other constituencies with similar examples were Nzega Rural and Ulyankulu (Tabora Region); Songwe and Ileje (Songwe Region); Msalala and Ushetu (Shinyanga Region); Madaba (Ruvuma Region); Kalambo (Rukwa Region); Chalinze (Coast); Ludewa and Lupembe (Njombe); Misungwi (MwanzaRegion), and Butiama (Mara Region).
Yet others were Babati Urban and Babati Rural (Manyara Region); Mtama and Ruangwa (Lindi Region); Katavi (Katavi Region); Mafinga Town (Iringa Region), and Kongwa (Dodoma Region).
Suprisingly, Morogoro Region had six unopposed candidates in the Gairo, Kilosa, Mlimba, Morogoro South, Mvomero and Morogoro South-East constituencies!
There is also the issue of ensuring that voting takes place in a tranquil environment. There are two issues at stake here.
First: the issue is whether or not voters should leave the vicinity of the polling station after casting their ballot. Regulations require voters to maintain a minimum distance of 200 metres from a polling station.
The general idea here is that political party agents are there to oversee the voting process at close quarters from start to finish. Then they can endorse or reject the election results.
The foregoing notwithstanding, however, there still is a raging debate on whether voters must leave a polling station after voting, or whether they can linger on and closed watch the goings-on first-hand.
While the authorities want voters to leave the scene pronto, some opposition political parties seem to want voters to hang around polling stations, possibly in the best interests of the parties concerned.
My take on this is that bona fide democracy must be left to prevail as such. Voters must be left to independently choose from the full menu: they can freely choose to leave the polling station immediately after they have cast their ballot, or stay NOT less than 200 metres of the polling station – for whatever reason(s) they (may) have.
Finally, I take this opportunity in all fairness to wish the electorate of Tanzania – and the country at large – a very peaceful election come October 28 this year. Voting is secret, and the results thereof must remain secret until the National Electoral Commission officially announces them.
It is against the law – and against electoral democracy – for a candidate to do a self-declaration of victory in the election: any election. Accordingly, let us all patiently wait for NEC to do its bounden duty to announce the results.
Happy voting on Wednesday!
Deus Kibamba is trained in Political Science, International Studies and International Law and lectures on international relations and diplomacy