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Tanzania Divided Over Polls

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DW-Tanzania.Trouble brews in Tanzania as the country prepares for her general election in 2020. With campaigns on for civic elections to be held this month, all eyes are on the Government on one side and the country’s opposition on the other. The opposition has, on the other hand, threatened to boycott the elections citing unfair disqualification of its candidates. At the same time, the government has affirmed that the elections will go on as scheduled citing most candidates were disqualified on technical grounds. With this standoff, which side will carry the day? Is Tanzania’s electoral democracy on the test?

As the saying goes: Where there is smoke, there is fire! With the kind of outcry and threats by the opposition parties to boycott the civic elections scheduled for November 24, 2019, it is clear that there are electoral processes that undermine electoral democracy in Tanzania. According to “The Citizen”, some opposition parties and analysts have argued that failure to address the trends witnessed in preparations for the civic polls would set a dangerous precedent ahead of the 2020 general election. This calls for a change in the electoral law and processes that are acceptable to a wider majority. The opposition has little or no trust in a government-led electoral process. This then, calls for the establishment of an independent electoral commission to steer such an important process if it is to be legit.

Whereas the major opposition parties like CHADEMA, ACT-WAZALENDO, and CUF have stated their non-participation in the civic polls, some minor opposition parties, without representation in parliament, have announced their participation in the said polls. A house divided cannot stand. It is yet to be seen how a divided opposition will push for a successful boycott. According to a report by the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, democratic freedoms were being undermined. The report further said that draconian laws have been used to silence free media, critical newspapers, and bloggers.

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The government, on the other hand, has given a tuff stand that political parties are free to either participate or boycott the elections but the process will continue as scheduled. Speaking in a news conference in Dodoma, Mwita Waitara, the Deputy Minister in the President’s Office in charge of Regional Administration and Local Government said the government was prepared to ensure peaceful election and warned the opposition to desist instigating chaos during and after the election. With the opposition’s boycott, the ruling party will win the polls. The question begging for answers, however, is whether such a victory would be legitimate.

The government, further, said it was disappointed by the opposition’s boycott move saying there were better procedures that would result in an amicable solution instead of poll boycott. Mr. Waitara reiterated that the country is governed by law and that eligible opposition candidates who claimed to have been disqualified unfairly were required to follow proper channels in finding solutions to their registration challenges.

As the polls date draw closer, all eyes, both locally and internationally focus on Tanzania. Both the opposition and the ruling party have a responsibility to peace and order throughout the campaigning and election period.

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