Friday, January 15, 2010

The Two Bills: Electoral Reform or Assault on Democracy in Tanzania?

You will know that 11th December 2009 the Prime Minister’s Office of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania published a Bill Supplement to the Gazette of the United Republic of Tanzania. The bills are scheduled to be discussed by responsible Parliamentary committees from 18th January 2010 on wards.

The Bill Supplement introduces Government proposals to amend certain electoral laws as well as to enact a completely new law to regulate election financing in Tanzania.

The electoral laws sought to be to amended by the proposed Electoral Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2009 are the Elections Act, 1985 Chapter 343 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of Tanzania, and the Local Government (Elections) Act, 1979 Chapter 292 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of Tanzania.

On the other hand, the proposed Election Expenses Act, 2009 seeks to regulate all aspects of election financing of general elections in Tanzania. The latter Bill makes wide-ranging proposals which, if enacted into law, will have far reaching and serious implications on the right to participate in electoral processes of not only the opposition political parties but also of all sections of the organized civil society. The amendments it proposes are a mere shuffling of provisions of the current electoral laws and/or a nibbling at the edges of existing law.

I kindly bring to your attention the Position Paper of CHADEMA’s Directorate of Legal and Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights on the respective bills. (Attached)

The paper analyses the Bills in the current and immediate past historical context in order to understand their import or true meanings.

On proposed Electoral Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2009

The statement of objects and reasons accompanying the Amendment Bill gives its object as being “to improve the efficiency and performance of the Commission in discharging its mandate in conducting elections.” The reason for the Amendment Bill is given as “the experience and short-comings or deficiencies that were noted in the last election.” The shortcomings or deficiencies the Bill identifies are lack of mandate to appoint regional election coordinators, lack of clarity regarding the updating of the voters register and lack of access to election centres by officers of the Commission.

The paper maintains that these cannot be the real reasons for the Amendment Bill. The paper indicates that the most of the proposals made are part of the current electoral laws and have not in any case been identified in the statement of objects and reasons as being problematic. They have also never been the subject of any serious demand for change by opposition parties or the organized civil society. The proposed amendments to the electoral laws are largely cosmetic as they do not alter the basic, or even formal, structure of the current electoral system. The proposed amendments also do not create any significant new rights or obligations. There is, in other words, nothing reformist in these proposals.

The paper maintains that the Amendment Bill is intended to deceive the people and perhaps the donors by creating the illusions of electoral reform while leaving intact the pillars of the current electoral system. Its proposals are intended to consolidate and buttress status quo while giving the fig leaf of reform. The real intent is to divert attention away from calls for real reforms that have been at the centre of demands by opposition parties and the organized civil society. The paper reveals that crucial questions such as the demand for an independent electoral commission and concomitant institutional machinery; independent candidates; and the streamlining of electoral procedures to expand rather than constrict electoral rights and freedoms have been swept under the legislative carpet.

The paper recommends that the Amendment Bill be significantly revamped by deleting all proposals that are already part of the existing electoral laws and/or do not add any value to the current electoral system. On the other hand, the paper recommends proposals that have to be incorporated to form part of the Amendment Bill.

On the proposed Election Expenses Act, 2009

According to its statement of objects and reasons, the thrust of the Election Expenses Bill is, inter alia, “to control the use of funds and illegal practices in the nomination process....” Other objects are “restricting foreigners, be it a government, an international organization, or institution to provide funds for election expenses”; and checking illegal practices in the election process. These objects are to be attained through pre-and post-election disclosure and reporting mechanisms.

The paper analytically reveals that the above may not be the real objects and reasons for this Bill. That the real objectives may be much more sinister than the pious declarations of the statement of objects and reasons. If enacted into law and rigorously enforced, these proposals will radically affect the rights of political parties and the organized civil society to participate in electoral politics and processes. The proposals will deny rights of citizens to contribute financially to the election of candidates of their choice. They will deny candidates the right to raise and use their own funds for legitimate election expenses even where their political parties are unable to do so. They will prohibit or restrict the right of weaker political parties and/or candidates to raise funds for election expenses throughout the election cycle while favouring and protecting the wealthy CCM state party. They will not check the influx of dirty money and/or proceeds of crime from being laundered in electoral processes. They will not prevent the influence of foreign interests in our electoral politics. They are also eminently anti-democratic in granting unchecked and/or arbitrary powers to party leaders to remove candidates on mere suspicion and without due process of the law.

Given the above the paper recommends, the Election Expenses Bill should be opposed and its enactment into law resisted by all those concerned about the health of our electoral politics and our fundamental rights to participate in the election of our government. On the other hand, the paper recommends provisions that have to be incorporated into the bill.

The position paper is available at

With Best wishes regards,


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