Dar es Salaam — Mr Joshua Nassary yesterday expressed his shock at being stripped of his Arumeru East parliamentary seat for absenteeism.
The opposition lawmaker told The Citizen that he had communicated the reason for his absence to the Speaker of the National Assembly, and was surprised that the head of the legislature went ahead and declared his seat vacant.
He said he missed the parliamentary sitting that took place from January 29 to February 9 because he had travelled out of the country to be with his wife who had experienced childbirth complications, adding that he informed the Speaker's personal assistant through an email.
"I made it clear that I would be absent from the sitting because I would be out of the country with my wife, who gave birth two days before Parliament convened," the Chadema politician said by telephone. When asked whether the email was replied to, Mr Nassary said he never got a response.
"I returned two weeks ago, but I have not received a response. In fact, I have been attending meetings of Parliament's Natural Resources Committee," he said.
Mr Nassary, who was first elected through a by-election in 2012 following the death of Mr Jeremiah Sumari, said he would challenge the Speaker's decision.
The director of elections with the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Dr Athumani Kihamia, said a by-election would be held to fill the seat as required by law.
"The next general election is more than 12 months away, and this means that a by-election must be held to fill the vacancy," he said.
Earlier yesterday, the National Assembly Office said in a statement that it had written to NEC chairman Semistocles Kaijage informing him that the Arumeru East seat was vacant after Mr Nassary lost eligibility.
The statement said Mr Nassary missed three consecutive parliamentary sittings, namely those held from September 4 to 14 and November 6 to 16, last year, and January 29 to February 9, this year.
"The decision by the Speaker is in accordance with Section 71 (1) (C) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania which directs that a member of parliament will lose his/her seat if he/she misses three consecutive sittings without permission from the Speaker," the statement said.
Also quoted were parliamentary standing orders number 146 (1) and (2) of January 2016, which state that attending committee meetings and parliamentary sittings is a mandatory requirement.
Mr Nassary is the first MP in the current parliament to lose a seat for absenteeism.
Read: Nassary loses parliamentary seat over long, unexplained absence