Tanzania: Why Turnout of Voter Listing Ahead of Polls Is Low

Dar es Salaam — As the extended time for voters registration is about to expire, leaders of opposition parties and political pundits, as well as some segments of the general public, have apportioned blame on the government for the lackluster performance.

The country is due for election of local government leaders on November 24, but over a week into the exercise today, there is concern a majority of citizens targeted have given the exercise a wide berth.

Local Government minister Selemani Jafo revealed at the weekend that some 11 million people out of the targeted 27 million had registered to vote in the elections. The minister announced yesterday's deadline would be extended to Thursday this week to allow more people to enlist.

As authorities ups campaigns to woo more people, commentators say threats to discipline government officials over the poor show would not address the real problem.

The ongoing phenomenon is being associated, partly, with the actions and rhetoric by various government officials, especially those in the local government and regional administration docket as well as some politicians from the ruling party.

There is a deep disenchantment among the members of the public who consider the whole exercise as a wastage of time. Many of them say that their vote will make no difference for the winners have long been decided upon. "I have not registered and I don't plan to," said Mr Nobert Mkenda in a tweet post. "I have lost faith with all politicians and the vote has lost its power to decide who should be a leader and who should not, given our current political environment." Mr Mkenda's views echo the opinions of many other people. Some point to the disappointment of opposition leaders whom they voted for but who would later defect to CCM to ostensibly support the current administration's work.

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There is also anger against various statements by some government and CCM leaders. One of these is that by Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda who vowed he will ensure CCM sweeps all seats in the elections in the region that voted overwhelmingly for the opposition in the 2015 elections. Dodoma District Commissioner Patrobas Katambi is also shown giving directions to officials under him how to ensure victory for the ruling party.

The September 2 meeting between President Magufuli and Ward Executive Officers (WEOs) from Tanzania Mainland which took place at the State House was also mentioned as part of the problem.

Contrary to other meetings at the State House, the meeting's discussion was not televised nor its agendas made public.

This forced the opposition to claim that the WEOs may have been influenced to give fair judgement in the elections.

Speaking to The Citizen, Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF) chairman Hebron Mwakagenda said the situation is an automatic outcome of disrespecting the rule of law and principles of good governance in recent years.

"People have lost faith in elections and this is very dangerous because we will have leaders with no legitimacy at all because they were not elected by the majority.

But also, when people lose faith in constitutional means to get their leaders they'll start exploring other means to meet their goal," he said.

Mr Mwakagenda said the current situation can only be reversed by those he said were responsible.

Findings by regional advocacy organisation Twaweza in its report; '2018- Speaking truth to power?

Citizens' views on politics in Tanzania' reported that citizens see personal freedoms as more important than elections to the definition of democracy. The stifling of people's basic freedoms, like the freedom of expressions, in the views of Chama cha Kijamii (CCK) secretary-general Renatus Muabhi must have informed the people's reaction to the exercise.

Tanzania Political Parties Council chairman John Shibuda, apart from blaming the low turnout on few days allotted for the exercise, also blamed the growing political polarisation in the country for the phenomenon.

"Our nation now is different from how it was during the times of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere when the nation was really united unlike today where we see labelling of them versus us gap widening every day," said Mr Shibuda.

CUF's strategy and election director Mneke Jaffar urged the government to let the opposition parties to do its activities freely as the country's laws allow, saying this can help placate people's anger and thus show up for registration.

"It is very important that the government issue a statement that the ban on politics has been lifted so that the morale of citizens is aroused to take part in civic duty," said Mr Jaffar.

ACT Wazalendo secretary-general Dorothy Semu told The Citizen that the low voters registration turnout is a direct consequence of denying the political parties a chance to offer voters education.

"It is important that the arrangement changes and authorities let the political parties offer this kind of education. We can mobilise the people within the few remaining days," said Ms Semu.

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