Tanzanian Court Annuls Presidential Appointees' Role in Elections

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Judge's gavel.

A Tanzanian court has repealed a law that gives presidential appointees powers to become returning officers on behalf of the electoral agency during election.

High Court judges Atuganile Ngwala, Dr Benhajj Masoud and Firmin Matogolo on Friday ruled sections 7(1) and 7(3) of the National Elections Act 2010 are unconstitutional and contravenes the independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

The act gave the appointees authority to oversee electoral processes which the civil groups termed "absurd".

Article 7 (l) states "for purposes of any election held under this Act, every city director, municipal director, town director, and district executive director shall be a returning officer for the purposes of conducting an election in a constituency and such returning officer may be for more than one constituency."

The case had been filed by human rights activist Bob Chacha Wangwe against the Attorney General and NEC requesting the court to declare the provision as unconstitutional.

He was backed by Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and opposition parties.

The applicants argued that returning officers were likely to favour their appointing authority during polls.

Last year, the court tossed out government's objection claiming that the applicants had no jurisdiction to petition the matter in court saying it ought to lodge a formal complaint with NEC.

Article 74 (14) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania forbids any person associated with any political party to be involved in an election oversight role.

Since the country returned to multiparty politics in 1992, ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has won all presidential election with majority of seats in Parliament since 1995.

The country goes to the ballot next year.

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