The 2024 & 2025 General Elections Will Be Measured Against Adherence to African Court Ruling

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This discussion paper chronicles the re-establishment of the multiparty democracy in 1992 and how the now leading party has capitalized on loopholes in the constitution and the legislation to consolidate powers to herself and now, through building the cult of personalities, is attempting to build political dynasties for themselves. This inquiry will review the position of the elections laws and how they have undermined people’s power and subjected them to the whims of the leaders.

Post-independent Tanganyika was a thriving multiparty democracy, but Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was dominant, and the vast reason that was given much later to justify the abolishment of multiparty democracy was the opposition parties were too weak to have a significant impact in the country, leading to their termination. The nation adopted mono-party democracy in 1965.

While the reason given was plausible a year earlier, the country was hit by a foiled military putsch provoked by low or unpaid wages. It is difficult not to consider that military rebellion was playing in the minds of the agitators of the one-party democracy.

The military was given a share in TANU, the then-ruling party, and the Parliament. They became part of the ruling class. Was the inclusion of the military in the governance not a reaction to their exclusion that may have encouraged the attempted coup d’etat?

It is essential to appreciate that one-party democracy was wholly borrowed from the Soviet Union and China. It was not a homegrown initiative, and that explained why, almost three decades later, the reintroduction of multiparty democracy was influenced by political events in the Soviet Union.

As the Soviet Union began dismantling the one-party democracy, we were vulnerable to justify keeping it with economic pain biting. One-party democracy was blamed for economic failures, albeit African socialism or Ujamaa was the real issue. The Ujamaa bungle is a discussion for another day.

Perestroika, or economic and political reforms, were first proposed by Leonid Brezhnev in 1979 and actively promoted by his successor Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s. It aimed to open up the Soviet Union to a much more accessible society at ease with the rest of the World. As reforms were in top gear, it became evident that the federal state of the Soviet Union had to be dissolved because economic, social, cultural and xenophobia disparities were so huge that they could not be reconciled.

Mikhail Gorbachev, accelerating these forms, found himself a victim of his reforms and was almost toppled in August 1991 as the security forces thought he was tearing up the empire to appease the reformers in all associated countries. Mikhail Gorbachev was later reinstated but had to resign after Boris Yeltsin declared Russia’s independence from the Soviet Union, and together with 14 other former members of the Soviet Union, formed a commonwealth of nations, each with its own country, flag, government and boundaries.

The Soviet Union was officially dissolved on 25th December 1991, with the Soviet hammer and sickle flag being lowered for the last time over the Kremlin and replaced by the Russian tricolour flag after that.

It takes no rocket scientist to remind us we re-adopted the multiparty democracy constitution a year later, obviously being nudged by the events happening in Eastern Europe. Tanzanians’ path to multiparty democracy was reluctant, and the special commission formed to probe the matter under President Al Hassan Mwinyi’s reign laid bare that most Tanzanians were happy with one-party democracy! That conclusion later justified adopting almost the same constitutional order of one parry democracy to govern a multiparty democracy!

Tanzania became a de-jure multiparty democracy, but in real terms, she was a de-facto one-party state under the ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM). All constitutional reforms after 1992 have intentionally sidestepped to address this contradiction, and these initiatives were executive promoted, canvassed and implemented except for the last proposal.

Since 1992, the executive articles of the constitution have become bulkier and more assertive, polarizing the nation into national leaders against everybody else. Those constitutional efforts strengthened the arm of the rulers and weakened the hand of the ruled.

While the constitution declared the supremacy of the people of Tanzania, the exact figure is laden with drawback clauses that strip the citizens of having the final say in the determination of the destiny of the nation. Significant policies like privatizing the parastatals were adopted in the CCM manifesto with almost no input from the general public, and the considerable means of the economy, unlike Russia, were handed over to aliens.

READ RELATED: An Inquest of What Went Wrong in The Last Constitutional Reforms.

The executive hijacked the reorganization of the election commission to reflect the nation’s diversity, and presidential appointees have been preferred to spearhead reforms in the management of our elections. The experience has shown such appointees have a conflict of interest: why change a system that has rewarded them bountifully?

At the heart of local government and general elections this year and next is the composition of the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania (NEC) and how it manages the polls. The African Court of Human and People’s Rights has declared that DEDs should not manage our elections despite our court of appeals sanctioning them to manage our elections.

The elections of 2024 and 2025 will be illegal if the District Executive Directors (DEDs) manage them. Still, the authorities will defy court orders to preserve their majority in the local government, parliamentary and presidential elections. The refusal to obey Court orders will raise red flags that the legal framework is designated to massively rig our elections in favour of CCM: why disobey court orders unless you are a beneficiary of the recalcitrant conduct?

The 2024 and 2025 elections will be measured against the total obedience of the African Court ruling, and the election reforms that the government is now initiating in the Parliament are silent about this. The government deludes herself that it can prosper over this by beguiling us. The renaming of the NEC to give it an aura of “independence” will reassure us that it is the behest of a conflict of interest.

Consequences of Being a Judge of Her Cause

The way the election legal framework is structured, CCM is a judge of her cause. CCM has managed our elections since 1992, and it is increasingly becoming clear our elections are not free, fair, and verifiable. While the election law requires the NEC to announce the constituency results, the same rule does not require the NEC to announce polling station results. Without polling station results to support constituency results, verifying declarations issued by the NEC is impossible.

Opaque and interference by security forces have undermined the will of the electoral, and the rulers are becoming less answerable to the voters. Public policy is now shaped with blatant disregard for the electorate. The disconnect between the voters and the rulers is now posing a national security concern.

As the voters are divorced from determining their destiny, public policy is ingratiating the rulers of the day—policy decisions like retirement benefits for the national leaders’ spouses and raises of salaries for the Parliament. At the same time, councillors do not receive wages, and the lease of Dar es Salaam port to DP World, among others, points to a future clash between these two highly polarized classes.

READ RELATED: Analyzing President Samia’s Stance on DP World Deal: Seizing Opportunities for Tanzania’s Development.

We are beginning to see kinship successions in politics that, over time, may amount to political dynasties defeating the whole meaning of representative democracy. As voters are disempowered from picking the leaders they prefer, the leaders pick themselves, and as they do so, kinship politics begin to grow and stratify itself.

The flip side of political dynasties is that the perceptions of alienation and ostracization begin to graft, and the society feels cheated and excluded, leaving the beneficiaries looking like an occupation force.

The sustenance of the Tanzanian nation begins with the citizens’ right to choose the leaders they trust. Regrettably, the election law reforms proposed in the Parliament do not address the intentional blunders we have made in the last three decades. Kenya’s election violence of 2007 was pivotal to meaningful electoral reforms.

We do not need to go down that path to trust our voters to choose good leaders. Paradoxically, since independence, we have been complaining about the lack of quality leaders, but our leaders are doing everything possible to ensure quality leaders, which is a mere pipe dream!

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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