27 February 2013

Tanzania: SADC Members Urged to Share Election Experiences

THE Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Mr Mathias Chikawe, has called on electoral commissions in the SADC region to work together in sharing best practices among member states.

Speaking during the opening of executive committee of electoral commissions' forum of SADC countries, he said that despite several achievements, the region faces challenges of legal framework, electoral system and technical efficiency in managing elections. "This forum is an example of the important role electoral management bodies play in the quest for sustainable democracy," he said.

Mr Chikawe said that the cooperation that had been built was geared towards encouraging the establishment of independent and impartial electoral commissions in SADC countries and encouraging the development and promotion of a democratic culture.He said that whilst previous elections in Tanzania had been peaceful and the country is currently in the process of reviewing her constitution, this is an opportunity to borrow a leaf from well established electoral standards.

The minister also said that there is a lot of work ahead for the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) in constitutional review process. "The two institutions must be aware that they will be required to organise, conduct and supervise the referendum for the purpose of validating the provisions of the new constitution.

"It is upon the two to be ready not only for that exercise but also to receive positively any changes," he said.Mr Chikawe said that it was high time for NEC and ZEC to start learning from others how best they could establish legal and institutional frameworks to enable the two bodies work in a required environment.

He observed that such forums were the best place to learn and that until a new constitution was adopted, NEC and ZEC remained the only institutions in the country that were mandated to organise, conduct and supervise elections. NEC Chairman, who also doubles as the ECF-SADC Executive Committee Chairperson, Justice (rtd) Damian Lubuva emphasized on early update of voter registers to avoid complications.

Justice Lubuva said that the problems in election processes were similar in most SADC countries and funding of the updating of voter registers was one of them. "The government usually needs to spend 2bn/- plus for the process and without starting this process now, problems are bound to arise," he said.

He said that from the forum, NEC was looking forward to learn from other SADC states experiences on IT usage in elections and how to effectively educate voters and those involved in the process.

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