9 February 2013

Tanzania: Proportional Representation for the New Parliament


FOR those who have been following my recent columns would remember for the last three contributions, I highlighted what was on the news related to the views raised by different groups to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) on the new proposed constitution.

My comments were targeted on those areas which I personally felt needed to be discussed with the hope of strengthening our nationhood and bring in peace and harmony.

We have heard of excessive powers of the President, the need of having independent Electoral Commission and several other constructive proposals. I hope the Constitutional Assemblies to be picked will do the needful.

We are very fortunate that we do not have to reinvent the wheel; there are several examples of countries which have just changed or adopted new constitutions on the event of attaining democratically elected majority rule in their countries such as South Africa and Namibia.

Our East African neighbour, in particular Kenya has been forced by events to come up with a new constitution which is directing that country to a new democratic dispensation. It will for the first time be tested in the forthcoming March General Elections.

Going by that phraseology of limiting presidential powers, it was very interesting to see how the Chief Justice and other top hierarchical posts in Kenya were recently appointed. It is a new culture that Africa has to adopt for the sake of peace, harmony and stability.

With independent Electoral Commissions as we see in other countries where the election results are unquestionably accepted as free and fair and in case there are obvious hitches, the aggrieved party is at liberty to find redress through the competent court of law.

These are the problems which we have been living with and our memories are still fresh on the opposition party boycotting the swearing in function of the President. We need our constitution to address all these for the betterment of our country. Maybe another area is on voter's anarchy of not going to vote on the Election Day despite of having registered a big number of electorate.

What should the constitution say about this? Should the President voted by under half of the registered voters be a legitimate President? Where does he/ she get his/her legitimacy? Corruption has been endemic in our elections and very unfortunately silently our elections not by design have been promoting tribalism unknowingly.

It is not easy for one from, say Tanga to go to stand for an election at Namtumbo and win. It was possible that time when Amir Jamal stood for Morogoro, but not today. It could be possible in those early days of independence but of late the indicators of tribalism, regionalism and religious bigotry are flushing red. How do we avoid this?

Countries like South Africa and Namibia which have been hotbeds of apartheid and Bantustan's regionalism had to be careful in their approach to this. That is where they applied the principal of proportional representation in the parliament. Their elections are not based on individual constituency but the party stands for electoral constituency.

The Party draws a Party List with the names of nominated members from each party with corresponding number of seats in the parliament. In this case, it is the Party which does the campaign and not an individual and the results after the elections are divided on the number of scores by each party. This guarantees each party at least to be represented in the parliament.

Each party has to do its primary elections to get its candidates for their party lists defeating tribal, regional or religious evils. So as the chances of corruption, though cannot outrightly be ruled out but however it is being managed. Such a system is cost effective as in case of death of Member of Parliament, or on any event a member of parliament is incapable of continuing with his/her duties can be replaced without going for another election.

Also if the Member of Parliament is not performing well he/she can be recalled back by his/her party and replaced by another member in the waiting list. Indeed some of the proposals suggested to having a bicameral parliamentary system. In such a system where you have proportional representation, this second house is necessary and in the case of Namibia, is known as the National Council which works together with the Parliament.

Its members are drawn from the regions and have constituencies; they are elected together in the General Elections with councillors. Basically during those General Elections, voters elect the President, Members of Parliament, Members of the National Council, and Councillors. The members are drawn from different parties on competition as individuals from their parties.

It is from these regional councils where they elect the Regional Governors (Regional Commissioners) and the Mayors. Decentralization is very much at work here. The National Assembly has the Speaker while National Council has the Chairman with identical responsibilities and powers in their respective jurisdictions.

The National Assembly and the National Council meet differently and have defined duties but the National Council has to ratify all the passed bills and other functions done by the Parliament. Unofficially these two houses are referred to as Lower and Upper Houses but have equally important roles to play.

The lower House, the National Council, puts the endorsement to the passed bills before being forwarded for the assent of the President. If they are not satisfied they have the power to return the bill to the Parliament for further discussions.

These are checks and balances and it may happen that the parliament being dominated by the ruling party while the National Council is dominated by the opposition! It seems in Tanzania most of the people are skeptical in the proportional representation for the fear of losing political bases in their constituencies which indeed is a way of diffusing all the inherent evils of corruption, tribalism, regionalism and religious bigotry. mg o s iwa s u i 8 7@gma i l . c o m +255754342711 Senior Citizen

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