Tanzania: Jafo in Another Election U-Turn

Dar es Salaam — Local Government minister Selemani Jafo made yet another U-turn yesterday over the local government elections as opposition parties maintained their stance against taking part in the polls.

In a statement issued in Dodoma, Mr Jafo rescinded the orders he issued on Sunday, allowing all party candidates who had collected nomination forms and returned them to be on the ballot.

In his fresh directives, the under-siege minister said only candidates adjudged as qualified by election returning officers would be the ones taking part. This order appeared to contradict Sunday's directive reinstating even disqualified candidates.

Mr Jafo would soon come under heavy criticism, with many stakeholders and legal experts questioning his legal powers to overrule the election returning officers who are sworn in for the task.

While dismissing reported withdrawal of main opposition parties from the elections, Mr Jafo also last week told the parties off, saying interested candidates could participate despite their parties' absence.

But yesterday the minister said his Sunday statement had been misunderstood, outlining the categories of the candidates eligible to stand for the elections.

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The three categories are: The candidates who successfully submitted their forms and were appointed by the assistant returning officers, candidates whose objections they presented to assistant returning officers were successful, and those candidates whose appeals to the District Appeal Committees were successfully ruled in their favour.

The latest stance suggests no opposition candidate would be viable to run unless cleared by the returning officers, whose handling of the process was the bone of contention before the opposition walkout.

It was not clear why the minister has issued three different position in a span of few days over the elections scheduled for November 24, this year. He was not available for questions yesterday as the new statement was read before government media outlets and a select two television stations.

The opposition maintained yesterday that they will not take part in the exercise as already indicated. Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, Chadema's secretary-general Vincent Mashinji called Mr Jafo's announcement a non-starter, saying the party will only be willing to take part if the exercise is started afresh.

"Mr Jafo has to swallow his pride," said Dr Mashinji whose party has forbidden any use of its logo in the upcoming elections. "I expected that following the ongoing stalemate he would have convened a meeting with us to do some political management instead of making statements that appeal to no one except himself."

CUF's secretary-general, Mr Khalifa Suleiman Khalifa, whose party he said will decide whether or not to participate in the civic polls today, called the dialogue "the cost of democracy" that the government cannot escape. The former Gando MP explained the current relationship between the government and the opposition as between a person with a gun and that with a knife, saying that it is difficult for the former to fear the latter. "But this is an old-fashioned thinking and it's important to remember that time changes and so do the people."

ACT-Wazalendo laid down a number of conditions to participate, including a repeat of the process, new elections regulations by all parties, independent and multi-stakeholder committee to oversee the whole exercise and the calling of a joint party dialogue to deliberate on the possible ways out of the present impasse.

"We reiterate our stance to boycott the election as well as continue to urge our members across the country to heed the party's directive to write to their respective local authorities announcing their withdrawal from the elections," ACT-Wazalendo's chairman for campaigning and elections committee Mr Joran Bashange said in a statement.

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