The Dar Side? Yet another President’s Electoral Commission

With elections in Tanzania set for October 31, the East African today reported “Fear, anxiety build up ahead of Tanzania’s election showdown Sunday”.

Most commentators, including Africa Confidential have not gone so far as to suggest that President Kikwete of the Nyerere ruling party CCM faced any real likelihood of defeat, but the East African asserts that an opposition surge has resulted in a serious two man race:

An opinion poll by non-government organisation Tanzania Citizens Information Bureau found that if elections were held between September 27 and October 10, Dr Willbrod Slaa, 62, would obtain 45 per cent of the votes cast against Kikwete’s 41 per cent.

Two earlier polls, one by the Synovate group and the other by a University of Dar es Salaam think tank, showed that Kikwete would win with 61 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

Analysts say that in the eyes of the public, CCM has gradually deviated from its founding values — fighting corruption, ensuring less spending on government administration and provision of social services — and that its leadership is firmly in the pockets of the capitalist class.

At the same time, Chadema, a 1992 breakaway from CCM — then led by Edwin Mutei, former governor and finance minister who disagreed with Nyerere, his boss then, on fiscal policy — has been making the fight against corruption the key plank of its electoral platform.

This play of perceptions seems to be earning Dr Slaa political mileage, and troubling Kikwete’s advisers.
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It appears that Chadema’s choice of presidential candidate was designed to exploit the frictions within CCM and expose the mismatch between its founding principles and the current reality.

Dr Slaa crossed from CCM to Chadema in 1995 after the party did not let him contest a political post for which he had won the primaries. He stood on the Chadema ticket to represent Karato District in parliament and won.

The catholic priest-turned-politician, who has built a reputation of himself as a man who speaks his mind and fearlessly fights corruption, brought his social-democratic values to a Chadema till then known as a centrist outfit.

Dr Slaa has pledged to cut the salary of the president by 20 per cent and those of Members of Parliament by 15 per cent.
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The opposition has accused the ruling party of using state resources to facilitate its campaign. There are fears of rigging and ultimately violence during and after the election.

The Electoral Commission has said that there are about 19 million registered voters, “However, scientific demographic surveys indicate that there cannot be more than 16 million voters in Tanzania,” said Ismail Jussa, CUF deputy secretary general.

“Electoral corruption has never reached this level: There are politicians out there buying votes, but nothing is being done to curb this,” Mr Jussa added.
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There are concerns with the electoral legal framework. The Elections Act 1995 provides for a National Electoral Commission to be appointed by the president, which in turn appoints district election officials who happen to be government officials.

A recent amendment provided for the Commission to appoint officials, in the event that district executive directors cannot supervise elections in the areas, but such new appointees are also civil servants. “The Electoral Commission is not independent,” Chadema’s Mnyika told The EastAfrican.

Electoral Commissions appointed unilaterally by a president who is running for re-election are a disaster waiting to happen, as we saw in Kenya in 2007. This situation allowed fraud in Uganda in the last election and theatens it again in February 2011.

Tanzania is a MCC compact country and a U.S. favorite. Kikwete visited Kibaki in Nairobi in early 2008 said to be carrying a message on behalf of the U.S. and helping to persuade Kibaki to agree to negotiated toward a deal to allow a role for ODM along with PNU in a power-sharing for national unity. The Tanzanian election has been low on my radar screen with all of the many problems in the region and certainly State and USAID have more than their hands full of challenges. Let us hope Tanzanian officials rise to the occasion.