11 January 2019

Tanzania: Opposition Parties Outline Plans to Boost Democracy

Dar es Salaam — Opposition political parties have outlined 12 long and short-term plans for the country to achieve good governance and sustainable democracy.

Long term plans include making comprehensive analysis on the government's intention to amend the 1992 Political Parties Act and ensure the new constitution writing process is revived and completed.

Others are campaigning for ratification of the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Good Governance (ACDEG), support legislators to table private bills in parliament and collect enough resources to support the fight for democracy in Tanzania.

The plans were announced in Bagamoyo, Coast Region on Wednesday during a two-day training for leaders of political parties to understand challenges brought by sections of the Political Parties Act of 1992, which was tabled by the government in parliament for amendment. The two-day training was organised by the Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF).

Tabling the plans, advocate Harold Sungusia said comprehensive analysis was important because of doubts brought by the bill on the fate democracy in Tanzania, deteriorating principles of good governance and threats to the country's peace and tranquillity.

"The bill provides massive powers to the registrar of political parties to register and de-register political parties, decide party's candidates and the type of civic education to be delivered to citizens," he said.

"The bill suggests huge penalties to political parties and its executives, therefore criminalising political activities in the country, which is against principles of good governance. Also, it restricts political parties to work as pressure groups."

He said the new constitution should reform the country's electoral body in order to make it independent, allow independent candidates, promote gender equality and cooperation among political parties.

According to him, the political parties would like the new constitution to allow any citizen to challenge presidential results in court and that sacked legislators and councillors should retain their positions even after defections.

He said campaigns should be heightened for the country to ratify ACDEG that reaffirms commitment of African countries to uphold democracy prosperity, encourage free and fair elections and good governance after neighbouring countries have ratified the document.

"Parliamentarians should be empowered and supported to table private motions in parliaments on democracy and good governance issues," he said.

According to him, areas of competency should be identified and allocated to respective Civil Society Organizations (SCOs) for efficient advocacy to ensure that the bill does not sail through.

Others opined that the bill should be scrapped because of looming constitutional, democratic and human rights problems it contains otherwise comprehensive amendments should be made.

Political parties should increase stakeholder's education on the content of the bill and broaden their participation in debates that allow in-depth discussion, according to him.

"Key lawmakers, who will represent stakeholders in pushing important issues, should be identified and support to file cases on the bill should be increased, and more information should be disseminated on various media platforms," he said.

Earlier, former TCF chairman Deus Kibamba said major reforms were required to harmonise doing politics in Tanzania.

"Unfortunately, many issues have been dropped from the bill including political parties' cooperation, permission to challenge presidential results in the court, forming independent electoral commissions for Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar and allowing independent candidates," he said.

"We will use some of our members to challenge these issues in the court."

Speaking during the event, TCF chairman Hebron Mwakagenda said they will not be spared once the bill is assented into law.

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