I’m hon­oured to chair Com­mon­wealth elec­tion team to Tan­za­nia – Jonathan

Daily Trust - - INTERVIEW -

Since con­ced­ing de­feat in Nige­ria’s 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, former Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan has un­der­taken his first in­ter­na­tional as­sign­ment as chair­man of the Com­mon­wealth ob­server group to the gen­eral elec­tions in Tan­za­nia. He speaks on the elec­toral process in that coun­try.

How do you feel as chair­man of the Com­mon­wealth Ob­server Group be­ing your first in­ter­na­tional as­sign­ment af­ter hand­ing over back in Nige­ria?

I am hon­ored to have chaired the Com­mon­wealth ob­server mis­sion dur­ing such sig­nif­i­cant elec­tions for the peo­ple of the United Re­pub­lic of Tan­za­nia. Our pres­ence here reaf­firms the Com­mon­wealth’s sup­port to the coun­try and its demo­cratic process. The Com­mon­wealth ob­server group com­mends the peo­ple of Tan­za­nia for the peace­ful and or­derly man­ner in which they ex­er­cised their rights to vote on Oc­to­ber 25th, 2015.

On 23 Oc­to­ber, our teams were de­ployed through­out Tan­za­nia to ob­serve the elec­tion en­vi­ron­ment and prepa­ra­tions. The Com­mon­wealth teams also ob­served the fi­nal cam­paign events around the coun­try. Our fi­nal re­port, which we will com­plete be­fore our de­par­ture, would be is­sued at a later date.

What has this group ob­served that en­tails mul­ti­party democ­racy on the main­land Tan­za­nia and the is­land na­tion of Zanz­ibar?

The emer­gence of UKAWA al­liance of op­po­si­tion par­ties, fol­low­ing the con­sti­tu­tional re­form process which has now been shelved, height­ened the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of th­ese elec­tions. We were there­fore pleased to note, from our brief­ings with the po­lice and other stake­hold­ers, that the cam­paigns which at­tracted large crowds, were gen­er­ally peace­ful, al­though re­ports of some in­ci­dents were recorded. In Zanz­ibar where ten­sions be­tween the two main par­ties were high, we heard sim­i­lar re­ports about the cam­paigns. Our ob­servers in Pemba (Is­land) and Un­guja re­ported that those cam­paigns which they ob­served were peace­ful. We note, how­ever, that the cam­paigns in Zanz­ibar were con­cluded on the 23rd Oc­to­ber, a day ear­lier than sched­uled, in or­der to cool down the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture.

Our gen­eral con­clu­sion was that in spite of some ten­sions and mi­nor in­ci­dents, the fun­da­men­tal rights of can­di­dates, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and sup­port­ers to as­sem­ble and cam­paign were ob­served.

What was the ma­jor le­gal is­sue be­tween the rul­ing and op­po­si­tion par­ties?

An is­sue that di­vided the po­lit­i­cal par­ties was the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Sec­tion 104 of the Na­tional Elec­tions Act which pro­hibits peo­ple from as­sem­bling within a 200 me­tres ra­dius of any polling sta­tion. While one party as­serted that its sup­port­ers could stay on af­ter vot­ing as long as they were be­yond the 200 me­tre ra­dius, an­other held the view that ir­re­spec­tive of this pro­vi­sion, af­ter vot­ing, vot­ers should leave the premises and go home.

How would this group rate the bal­ance on me­dia cov­er­age of the cam­paigns be­tween the par­ties?

There has been a pro­lif­er­a­tion of me­dia in Tan­za­nia since multi-party elec­tions in 1995. The me­dia is on the whole split be­tween state-run me­dia and the pri­vate sec­tor but me­dia own­er­ship is lim­ited to a few pow­er­ful play­ers. The law pro­vides for an al­lo­ca­tion of air time which is avail­able to all po­lit­i­cal party broad­casts. It also states that there should be eq­ui­table op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­cess free time and the amount of time al­lo­cated to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the rates charged should be con­sis­tent to all par­ties and can­di­dates. How­ever, some stake­hold­ers ex­pressed con­cern that me­dia cov­er­age of the elec­tions tended to favour the gov­ern­ing party.

What is the as­sess­ment of for the free ex­er­cise of the peo­ple’s fran­chise and ba­sic free­doms were re­spected. We would pro­vide some rec­om­men­da­tions on how the process might be fur­ther im­proved in our fi­nal re­port.

Were there in­con­sis­ten­cies in the ap­pli­ca­tion of pro­ce­dures?

At the close of polls at 4pm, the long queues in some places had thinned out. Where there were still vot­ers in the queue, they were al­lowed to vote in line with the law. Clos­ing pro­ce­dures were also gen­er­ally well ob­served. In some in­stances, there were in­con­sis­ten­cies in the ap­pli­ca­tion of pro­ce­dures. We noted how­ever, that they were not of such a mag­ni­tude as to neg­a­tively im­pact on the over­all process. We would pro­pose rec­om­men­da­tions on this mat­ter in our fi­nal re­port.

Polling of­fi­cials and party agents col­lab­o­rated in a col­le­gial spirit dur­ing the count. Our ob­servers recorded few spoilt bal­lots. It ap­pears vot­ers were con­ver­sant with the process and also knew how to make their mark. Where there were con­tested bal­lots, the polling of­fi­cials and party agents re­solved the mat­ter am­i­ca­bly.

Was the col­la­tion of re­sults im­pres­sive?

We have re­ceived re­ports of ten­sion in some places where our ob­servers are based in­clud­ing in Mt­wara and Mwanza. We noted with par­tic­u­lar con­cern the de­ci­sion by the Civic United Front (CUF) to pre­ma­turely an­nounce re­sults in Zanz­ibar, which ex­ac­er­bated ten­sions there.

How would your group clas­sify the elec­torate who were openly di­vided be­tween the two main par­ties, the rul­ing CCM and op­po­si­tion CHADEMA?

We wish to com­mend the peo­ple of the United Re­pub­lic of Tan­za­nia for demon­strat­ing their com­mit­ment to democ­racy by en­gag­ing so keenly with the elec­toral process in a peace­ful and or­derly man­ner. We call on all stake­hold­ers, in par­tic­u­lar the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and their sup­port­ers in Zanz­ibar, to con­tinue to show re­straint and mag­na­nim­ity and to up­hold their com­mit­ment to na­tional unity, peace and sol­i­dar­ity. We be­lieve the peo­ple of Tan­za­nia de­serve that from their lead­er­ship. In our fi­nal re­port, we would re­flect on pos­si­ble ar­eas for im­prove­ment. In par­tic­u­lar, we would ad­dress two of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tions which the 2010 Com­mon­wealth ob­server group pro­posed, both of which re­mained unim­ple­mented.

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