Africa 2015: An eventful year for Tanzania

2015: An eventful year for Tanzania

 

Freeman Mbowe, national chairman of CHADEMA
Freeman Mbowe, national chairman of CHADEMA

(AA) – The year 2015 will likely see a number of major political developments for Tanzania.

“The year 2015 is going to decide our fate as a nation,” Freeman Mbowe, national chairman of CHADEMA, the country’s main opposition party, told The Anadolu Agency.

“If we mess up, it will take us another 50 years to get back on track,” he said.

For the first time ever, the country’s electoral commission will update the national voter list using a biometric voter registration system – a modern technology that many observers hope will reduce the possibility of election rigging.

The registration exercise was originally scheduled to begin in late 2014. It was delayed, however, due to the government’s failure to provide the electoral body with the necessary funding.

The registration process will go on from Feb. 16 to 23, according the electoral commission.

Then, on April 30, Tanzanians will vote in a public referendum on a proposed draft constitution.

Last October, the draft charter was delivered to President Jakaya Kikwete by the country’s constituent assembly.

Opposition parties have already decided to boycott the referendum, saying the entire constitution-drafting process – which began in 2011 – was lacking in national consensus.

They say that they plan to mobilize the public against the proposed constitution.

The draft constitution gives Zanzibar – a semi-autonomous archipelago that together with the mainland form the United Republic of Tanzania – the right to pursue its own foreign policy and secure development loans.

It also calls for 50-50 gender equality in leadership and decision-making positions, especially in parliament.

The draft charter also establishes a council for youth and the elderly and allows election results to be challenged in court.

Further, it forbids all forms of violence, intimidation and discrimination.

It also calls for the creation of a free and independent electoral commission – a longtime demand of the public and the opposition.

What’s more, the draft constitution allows independent candidates to contest elections and allows presidential candidates to challenge election results in court.

The country’s 1977 constitution was drafted by a group of only 20 people chosen by then President Julius Nyerere.

This October, Tanzania will hold its fifth multiparty general election to choose a president and members of the National Assembly.

Kikwete, the country’s fourth president since independence from Britain in 1961, has served two five-year terms and is ineligible to contest the upcoming race.

So far, more than ten senior members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party have shown an interest in running for top office, including former prime ministers Fredrick Sumaye and Edward Lowassa, along with several incumbent cabinet ministers.

The main opposition parties in the Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution, meanwhile, plan to field a single consensus candidate.

Although Tanzania has held four multiparty elections since 1995, the October poll is seen as exceptional as it may be the first to be held under a new constitution – if the draft charter is endorsed in the April referendum.

A united opposition will likely threaten the CCM, which currently holds both the presidency and a parliamentary majority.

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