Friday, November 19, 2010

Tanzania opposition says to push for electoral reform

Fri Nov 19, 2010

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania's main opposition party said on Friday it would push for reforms of the country's electoral system after walking out of parliament during the president's speech to protest disputed elections.

The opposition said the October 31 vote was heavily rigged in favour of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and want an independent electoral commission and constitutional amendments to allow presidential election results challenged in court.

President Jakaya Kikwete, who won re-election for a second and final term in office by 61 percent, delayed his speech for a few minutes on Thursday as lawmakers from Chadema party, which makes up the official opposition camp, marched out.

"The decision to walk out was made in line with our decision not to recognise results of the presidential election," Chadema's parliamentary chief whip, Tundu Lissu, told Reuters.

"We have reasons to believe that the results of the presidential vote were heavily rigged in favour of the incumbent president."

Chadema, whose presidential candidate Willibrod Slaa garnered 26 percent of the vote, said it would snub meetings officiated by the president.

Under the constitution, parliamentary and local council results can be challenged in the courts but final presidential results as announced by the National Electoral Commission cannot be challenged.

"The only legal recourse left is to register our displeasure and walk out. We know our action may not have any legal consequences, but we will not give legitimacy to the deeply flawed election process," Lissu said.

"We will hit the road and streets of Tanzania. We will explain to the people of Tanzania what happened."


Independent election observers said the electoral commission and government officials openly favoured the ruling party during the election process.

Lawmakers from the ruling CCM party, which has a two-third majority in the 335-seat parliament, heckled Chadema legislators as they walked out of parliament.

Members of parliament from other opposition parties did not join Chadema in the walk out.

One analyst said Tanzania's constitution, which was written more than three decades ago when the east African country was under one-party rule, had become obsolete.

"I think the need for a new constitution is more scaled up now than at any other time in the country's history," political commentator Deus Kibamba said in a phone interview with Reuters.

"To avoid a political crisis, the government should start the process of writing a new constitution that will take into consideration all the major changes that have occurred in Tanzania, including the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992."

In his speech on Thursday, Kikwete urged political leaders to work together to heal wounds that emerged after the election.

He outlined priorities of his government in the next five years, which include boosting economic growth, investing in agriculture, infrastructure and improving access to social services such as education, water and electricity.

He said his government would add 640 MW of electricity to the national power grid by 2015.

East Africa's second largest economy has energy demand close to 900 MW capacity, but produces less than 800 MW. Only 14 percent of its 40 million people are hooked to the grid, while demand grows by 10 to 15 percent annually.

Source: Tanzania opposition says to push for electoral reform | Top News | Reuters


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