Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Is the Date of General Election Silent in Tanzania's Draft Constitution?

Elections are the recipe for true democracy. They embody pluralism, equality, and representation in a given polity. In any given democracy, elections are held once in every agreed time frame as established by the country's constitution. They could be once in every four, five or seven years. With an established national electoral body, elections are done, depending on the government structure, from the ward representatives all the way to the president. 

The US, which is the semblance of true democracy outlines the date of elections as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Kenya's new constitution outlines the date of election for the six elected officials as the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year. Article 101 (1) of the Constitution of Kenya outlines that, the general elections of members of parliament shall be held on the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year while Article 136 (2)(a) states that the election of the President shall be held on the same day of the general election of MPs. This date also applies to the County Assembly Members (See Article 177) and Gubernatorial elections (Article 180).  

Repressive African regimes in the past have used the election date as a weapon against the opposition. This together with the unilateral appointment of the chairman of the electoral body and it members has been used to surprise the opposition by catching them unprepared making it easy for the ruling incumbent to sweep victory, albeit through fraudulent manner.

Tanzania's draft constitution is pretty silent on the election date. I have looked at the draft carefully reading each chapter and article but I have not come across the direct mention of an election date. Critics have argued that the public, politicians and the members of the Constituent Assembly have placed too much attention on the structure of the union (the most contentious issue) leaving other important subjects. As am not a constitutional expert, I welcome views on this.