DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AND ELECTIONS
Democratization process involves the political reforms to ensure that the principles of democracy are achieved. One major indicator of democratic reforms is to have democratic elections.
An election is the process of choosing/selecting person by vote for a given position especially in political office
Democratic elections are elections held in an atmosphere in which participants are tolerant or willing to listen to the political views of their opponents and when the electoral law and rules are fair and equal for all contestants.
Factors which make elections democratic (free and fair)
For an election to be declared democratic (free and fair), the following conditions should be observed:
1. A well developed system of many political parties from which people can choose those they wish to be their representatives.
2. Equal opportunities to all parties: Candidates and political parties that are contesting in the election should be treated equally
3. Widely accepted rules of the game within which the struggle for power takes place.
4. Presence of an independent and impartial electoral body. This is required to be honest, competent and non partisan
5. The existence of an independent judiciary to interpret the electro law
6. Free and fair campaigns: Campaigns are political meeting where candidates present their views promise and programs and voters ask question .these views can be read or heard from the mass media e. g. Radios TVs news paper the posters flies and pamphlets in a democratic state the government allow freedom of expression candidates parties and voters are not intimidated threatened bribed or prevented from voting
7. The campaigns should focus on political and socio- economic issues like poor education decline in economy, poor health services bad, infrastructure low crop prices of agricultural product excessive these problems and not going astray from them.
8. Equal access to the mass media for all political party the mass media which include radio, television, posters newspaper leaflets, banners, stickers and internet influence the way people vote. In democratic election all candidates and parties should have equal access to the media. The existing government or the party in power should not dominated the media or suppress the freedom of the press
9. Abiding by agreed code of conduct. A code of conduct for a democratic elections a set of rules and regulations that are set by the electoral commission and have to be adhered to all political parties as well as the candidates who are contesting for various political positions.
The Tanzania code of conduct in democratic elections
All parties shall have access to all potential voters. No party shall have an exclusive control of any area.
There shall be no use of inflammatory or derogatory language during campaigns.
There shall be no use of intimidation in any form including death threats and arson
There shall be no interference or disruption at public meetings during campaigns.
All parties shall commit themselves to a secret ballot and respect cotters right to keep their voters secret.
There shall be ban on carrying and displaying of all weapons during election campaigns and on the voting day.
The security forces shall not take sides or interference with the election process.
Election campaigns shall be conducted daily, the parties and voters shall be tolerant of each other’s point of view.
There shall be no tempering with or interference with voters’ ballot papers on the election.
All political parties shall undertake to accept the results of the election if the electoral process in declared free and fair
Principles of democratic elections
There are four basic principles of democratic elections;
Universal voting/ universal suffrage; This is a condition which allows all citizen who have legally meet voting qualifying to vote and be voted for regardless of their sex, race, language, income, profession, education, religion or political beliefs
Equality of votes when an election is democratic each votes carries one vote.
Secret ballot: secret ballot means voting secretly. This condition requires that voting act should not be known by another person, casting of the votes must be in secret.
Direct elections: This when the voters decide for themselves who their leaders will be. That action of casting a vote against or for a candidate means that the voters are directly electing their leaders
Free and fair election in Tanzania
Election are said to be free in the sense that any one qualifying vote in allowed to do so without external influence or interference.
Free and fare election is therefore, the process of election in which all the rules and regulations of election are adhered to, so that the act of choosing the leaders is done through observing all the principles of democracy like transparency, free press, inclusion etc.
It is the one in which it is unlawful for any political party or candidate to use Government authority, facilitates or resources for the purpose of running the election process, and all candidates are to be given equal access to state owned media secured are for public rallies and political speech.
The organs responsible for ensuring that elections held are in a free and fair manner is the National Elector commission (NEC) in mainland Tanzania or Zanzibar electoral commission (ZEC) for the Zanzibar Isles. This national electoral commission is established by parliamentary act but its top officials are appointed by the president of the United republic of Tanzania and it is expected to carry out its activities without interference and impartiality.
CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
There should be equal opportunities to political parties involved in such elections. All the candidates contesting for various posts from all parties should be treated equally without any kind of discrimination or intimidation.
There should be free campaigns for candidates in presenting their policies and election manifestos. Each contesting candidate from each party should be given the chance for selling the policies and manifesto of the party to the prospective voters without interference or intimidation.
There should effective control of corruption. In order to make an election free and fair, the government should make sure that it combats all sorts of corruption that the voters can choose their leaders without being influenced through corruption. So that the voters can choose the leaders according to their ability.
There should be equal access to mass media for all political parties to air their parties manifesto and policies.
There should be free flow of information. This is very important for the election to be free and fair since the voters should be well informed about the candidates and their policies, the contesting parties’ manifestos and the whole progress of the election.
Abiding by the agreed code of conduct. A code of conduct for a democratic election Is a set of rules and regulations that are set by the electoral commission and have to be adhered to by all political parties.
There should be a free electoral commission which can work with no influence from any contesting political party. In this case the electoral commission should not be appointed by the government leader form any political party. This will make it fair and giving equal rights to all contesting political party
The actions that have been taken to ensure fair and free election in Tanzania
Passing an electoral law: This was passed by the parliament to facilitate lawful administration of the national electoral commission the law stipulates detailed instruction and gives the national electoral commission (NEC) the power to: Design print and control the use of ballot paper: create polling stations, promote civic education, on voting procedures, accredit any non –particular individual or group or an institution or an association to carry out voter education: demarcate constituencies :Determine a polling day, keep and maintain voters register ensure that transparent vote counting is exercised and announce the election result.
Provision of election monitors and observes: These are experts responsible for ensuring equal fairness and justice to candidate and parties. This includes NGOs e. g TEMCO (Tanzania election monitoring council, LHRC (legal and human right center). TEC (Tanzania Episcopal conference) CCT (Christian council of Tanzania)
Allowing international election observers whose functions are to oversee that elections proceeding are in order and that the one who exercise maintain a free and fair approach. For example the 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 multiparty general elections in Tanzania international observers were invited for the European union, united nations, Africa union, southern Africa development cooperation and East Africa
The election process has to undergo a number of stages: these including
1. Registration of voters: People who are allowed to vote are those who have sound mind and should be citizen of Tanzania and have the age of 18 years and above .registration of votes is done in special areas prepared by the electoral commission. Registration of votes is very important because it help to know the number of voters .it also help to understand who have qualifications of being a votes
2. Candidate selection: Every party in Tanzania has it own way of choosing its candidates to contest for councilors members of parliament and presidential position .every party is supposed to indentify` candidates who are likely to win based on for instance persona ability integrity personality eloquence and above all with no criminal record.
3. Organization and management of campaigns: All party candidates given equal opportunities to address the public and present themselves to the voters. All electoral and present themselves to the voters. All electoral campaigns should be done orderly in line with laid out norms and procedures.
4. Voting: after campaigns people who are qualified as registered voters go to the parties they like. The voting is done through secret ballot each party being represented at the polling station.
5. Vote counting: Counting of the votes follows immediately after completion of the voting and each polling station reveals its results to the public. Those who have the right to participate in the counting process are the representation of the candidate or the political party.
6. Announcing the results: The national electoral commission is the only body to announce and the general results of elections. It is responsible to declare winners of all posts starting with those members of parliament and the president
Qualification of candidates contesting for various posts in Tanzania
A political candidate is any person who is qualified for the post he or she is contesting and he or she has been appointed by the political party to contest for that post.
A candidate for the councilor post
A candidate for the councilors post should have the following qualifications.
- He/she has to be a Tanzanian citizen
- He/she has reached the age of 21 years and above
- He/she has to master reading and writing Kiswahili or English language
- He/she has to be a member of registered political party and be appointed by the party to be a councilor candidate.
- He/she has to have a credible source of income which will enable her or him to live a decent life.
- He/she has to have a resident of the ward or town where he or she is contesting for councillorship.
- He/she has to have not less than ten sponsors who have been registered in the ward where he or she is contesting.
- He/she must not be convicted for tax evasion for period of 5 years before election.
- He/she has to have a bond of 50,000 cash money and submit in to the election supervisor.
- He/she must take oath using a special form in front of magistrate to testify that he or she has the qualifications to be a councilor and has accepted to be a candidate.
A candidate for the parliamentary post
For the parliamentary post a candidate has to have the following qualification.
- He/she has to be a citizen Tanzania
- He/she should have acquired the age 21years and above and be mentally fit.
- He/she has to master writing and reading skills in English or Kiswahili language
- He/she must not be convicted for tax evasion for a period of five years before election.
- He/she has to have at least 25 sponsors who are eligible voters in his or her constituency which her or she is contesting
- He/she must be a member of registered political party and be appointed by the party to contest for the parliamentary post in the respective constituency.
- He/she should take the oath by using special forms in front of the parliamentary post.
- He/she has to have a bond of 500,000 cash money to be submitted to the election supervisor from NEC.
A candidate for presidential post
The qualifications of presidential candidate of the united republic of Tanzania are
- He/she has to be a citizen of the united republic of Tanzania by birth
- He/she has to have reached age of 40 years and above
- She/he has to have the qualifications that would enable him or her to be a member of parliament
- He/he has to be a member of a registered political party and should be appointed by the party to contest for the presidential post
- He/he should not have any record of tax evasion within a period of 5 years before election.
- He/she has taken the oath in front of a judge of referral court to testify that he or she has accepted to be presidential candidate.
- He/she has to 200 sponsors who have been registered as eligible votes from all regions of Tanzania. The sponsors should sponsor only one candidate for the presidential post in one election.
ROLES OF VARIOUS GROUPS IN THE DEMOCRATISATION PROCESS
Role of political parties in the election process:
- These nominate candidates who will contest for the existing vacancies.
- Political parties have to provide civic education to their members and the public at large as well as encourage people to participate in political activities e.g. registration and voting.
- Political parties have to prepare their party manifestos that disclose what will happen in case a party takes over the executive office.
This is the key organization which over sees the entire election process:
- It provides voters education
- It ensures fair play in elections
- It ensures the candidates meet the qualification required for the post they are contesting for:
- It prepares votes registration books and updating, it ensures that every person who qualifies to be registered as voter is given a chance to vote.
- It prepares the constituency centers for voting
- It sets the dates of election
- It oversees voting activities in the whole country
- Announces election result.
The government has to provide the financial material and security support for the election process:
- To present the interests of the people to the governing system. This is done through the parliament. Members of parliament present the views of the people from their respective constituencies to the government so that they can be implemented. This is done during the parliamentary sessions
- To stipulate the Bill of Rights in the constitution. A Bill of Rights is a list of rights and freedoms guaranteed to all people in the country’s Constitution. The courts of law have the power to enforce these rights. Democracy emphasizes the value of every human being. Examples of rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, the right to equality and the right to education.
- To make laws of the country. The government makes laws through the parliament. The parliament debates and passes bills which after being signed by the president they become laws.
- It checks on the executive for possible abuse of power. Through the parliament, the ministers are asked questions so as to identify various weaknesses so as to rectify them.
- To ensure the rule of law. This is done by the law enforcement organs such as police and other government machinery. Those who break the laws are taken to the court by the police. Courts listen and judge the cases. This is the duty of judicial organ of the state.
- To check the performance of the executive and vote it out whenever necessary. This is done by the parliament through vote of no confidence. When this happens, the parliament is dissolved and another election is held.
The roles of local governments in strengthening of democracy in Tanzania.
Providing a room for people’s participation in planning and implementations of developed programs
Through bringing the government closer to the people, they give chance to many people to participate in making democratic decisions such as participating in elections and contributing in decision making.
They ensure that people participate fully in the affairs of their government in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, such as village assembly.
Local governments guarantee accountability and transparency through monitoring and controlling the performance of duties and functions of the council and its officers and staffs.
They ensure observation of rule of law and enactment of by-laws which seeks to realize the interests of the citizens within their locality
They ensure citizens’ participation (Direct democracy)
They make the government easily accessible to all the citizens whenever a certain matter which needs to be solved by the government occurs.
Through presenting the interests of the people to the central government system. This is done through the parliament. The MPs present the views of the people from their constituencies to the government so that they can be implemented.
The roles of Non –government organization (NGOS)
They provide voters’ education to the citizens by using different means and approaches.
NGOs are not supposed to take the role of political parties
Supporting policy formulation, implementation and evaluation through political advice. For example Tanzania Gender Budget Initiative (GBI) is organized by Feminist Activities (FemAct) led by TGNP and it shows the efforts by civil societies to engage directly in policy making in all levels
To enable citizens to identify their values, beliefs and democratic practices. They mobilize constituencies especially the marginalized to participate fully in public affairs.
NGOs foster development activities of citizens through financial and material support, and improve the wellbeing of their own communities
NGOs act as link between the donors and aid beneficiaries. Through acting as a bridge between the donors, the state and citizens, the donors tend to use these organizations as they are close to the beneficiaries hence are able to fulfill the needs of a given society
NGOs assist in regulating and monitoring state performance and behaviours of public officials. Active civil society organizations tend to scrutinize the state performance and ethical behaviors of public officials to ensure that there is no misuse of power for personal interests.
NGOs act as watch dogs to see what the government does and expose them to the public. For example; checking the way the government respects human rights.
Strengthen the observation of human rights through promoting international standards and monitoring for violation s and abuses.
NGOs enhance the rule of law through low cost or free legal aid, educating the citizens regarding their rights, and advocating for legal reforms
The mass media should educate people on the importance of participating in the election process
The mass media should be make sure that citizens are aware of political manifestations of very party, and play to be as impartial as possible
The mass media should make people aware of election results as are given by the Elector commission
This is target group: citizens have a big role to play in election by:
Getting registered in votes registration book:
Participating in the campaigns and listening to the political agendas/ manifestation of different political parties and deciding which to vote for the most appealing
Casting their votes on the voting day
Receiving accepting or rejecting the result.
Informing the official if they think there was malpractice in the electoral process. E. g. corruption and intimidation.
The election will therefore be free and fair only when all groups take part in the whole process. The failure of any group to the party of the process is likely to jeopardize the whole exercise
The importance /advantages of democratic elections
Democratic election help give the opportunity to voters to choose good leaders: voters believe that electing a different party or candidate can be an alternative to solve their problem and improve their lives: thus elected voters make laws or by – laws that have a direct impact on the day life of people. Good leaders are very important to people’s development.
To ensure good government: when good leaders are voted into office by the people through democratic voting they form a good and effective governance. Free and fair elections ensure that people make informed choices of parties and candidate
To make the government accountable for its actions. The part which is vote in office seeks to serve well the voters. Elections are therefore means of building a responsible government by rejecting corrupt parties or candidates in an election.
To place in office a government of people’s choice: Democratic elections are vital in forming a new government. Though elections the voters show acceptance. Rejection or dissatisfaction.
To improve the political system. Any ruling party which programs to power maker effort to prove to the electorate that it is capable of forming an effective government. Opposition parties on the other had try to convince the electorate that they can do. Better than ruling party. In this situation the political system
Short coming of the democratic elections:
It is costly: the whole process toward Election Day is expensive. The producer include scrutinizing candidates, publicity driving electro constituencies, registering, voters monitoring the campaigns courting the ballot and verifying the ballot paper when necessary all these require a lot of money.
Elections are time consuming. This is because the outlined steps have to be followed precisely by all contestants and their supporters.
The reasons for choosing candidates can be right or wrong. In certain circumstances same candidates may influence voters to vote for them through bribes deceit tribalism religion personal wealth nepotism or social status
Setbacks in the multiparty general elections in Tanzania
Shortage of funds; section 13 (1) of political parties act 5 no.5 of 1992 states that not only registered political parties which have parliamentary seats and popular votes are the ones qualified for funds. This makes only few political parties to quality for subsidies. For example, after 2005 general elections CCM received Tshs.555.5 million per month (82.8%) of the total CUF received 77.2 million, CHADEMA received Tshs 1.4 million. Hence there is a concern among opposition political parties that this wide resource disparity constrains the opposition to spread nationwide.
Oppressive laws on political association: there are still some oppressive laws which hinder the freedom to some political parties. For example section 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the police act, cap. 322 R.E 2002 require any political party whether provisionally or fully registered to ask for permit to have any meeting and to state the purpose of such a meeting. However the police frequently use these sections to cancel opposition political parties meeting on ground that the meeting is likely or intends to cause a breach of peace or jeopardize the public safety in the area.
Lack of independence and impartiality of the national Electoral commission this stems from the fact that all member of the commission are appointments are not clear and transparent to the extent that most stakeholders lose trust and confidence in the commission
An element of corruption during campaigns’ and election whereby the part vanguards dish out items like t- shirts khan gas dirking food etc to allure the voter.
Minimal participation of citizen in the election. Over 50% of the registered voters did not show up in the 2010 general election.
Poor preparation: for example poor registration of voters led to same constituencies to repeat voting exercise in Buseresere, Karagwe, etc during the 2010 general election
Unequal access to media coverage especially state owned media. The opposition parties do not get adequate access to mass media owned by the government. There are about 245 private newspapers, over 134 newspapers owned by government agencies and departments and about 44 religious newspapers but the opposition parties do not get access to government owned mass media to publicize their policies and manifestos.
However the newspaper act of 1976 contains many restrictions on freedom of the press. For example section 5 (2) grants vast power to the minister responsible for information to deregister any newspaper at any time he or she thinks it does not qualify.
Similarly, section 25 (1) gives minister power to ban any newspaper at any time he or she deems right to do so. For example in October 2008 Mwanahalisi newspaper owned by the opposition party was banned by the government for three months allegedly for having published seditious article.
Intimidation of the opposition parties by government authority. This includes raiding and interruption opposition party campaigns.
The ruling party is constantly being accused of using state owned funds and resources such as vehicles for party campaigns
Obstacles to democratization processes in Tanzania
Lack of culture of political tolerance both among the individuals and the political parties as well, where those in opposition group are seen as enemies to the ruling parties. For that reason the freedom of assembly is violated as the political assemblies have been banned, hence the process of democratization is threatened
Minimal participation of individuals in elections; this ah led to poor representation since the leaders a elected by a very small number of citizens. Example over 50% of registered voters did not participate in the 2010 general election.
Lack of independence and impartiality of the national electoral commission. This stems on the fact that all the members of the national electoral commission are appointed by the president where by the criteria for that appointment are not clear and transparent, as a result the people loose trust and confidence in the commission
An element of corruption during electoral campaigns and elections in general where some of the political parties and candidates for most elections tend to bribe their prospective voters
Some weaknesses observed in election procedures like unequal access to media coverage especially, especially state owned media, Intimidation of the opposition parties by the government authorities, and also the ruling party is constantly being accused of using of state owned funds and resources like vehicles for party political activities including campaigns
Ignorance and illiteracy among the people on the importance of participating in the democratic processes, like voting in election, contesting in election etc.
this hinders the whole process of democratization as it leads to the absence or scarcity of qualified people to fill various posts and the voters.
Obstacles to democratization processes in Africa
External influence; Big powers tend to interfere with the African democratic processes in order to safeguard their economic interests.
This leads to disturbance in the democratic atmosphere of democracy in Africa since in most cases the African countries are required to implement some of the policies without consulting the citizens. Example; adopting same sex marriages.
Poor conduct of elections, which result in a sense of lacking free and fair elections. Most of elections conducted in most of African countries are reported to be violating some important aspects of free and fair elections, such as absence of free campaigns for all parties, for instance in Uganda the contestant from opposition party Keyza Besigye was held in detention in the election day, where the candidate for the ruling party was declared a winner in such election.
Weak middle class; Middle class in most African countries the middle class is weak since independence. The middle class is an important agent for democratization process.
The middle class in the country is made by the workers, traders (merchants) etc. in developed countries the movements for fundamental rights were led by middle class.
Absence of democratic constitutions; Most of African countries do not have democratic constitutions in which the sovereignty resides on the people. Most of the constitutions in African countries are mono-party and do not effectively accommodate multiparty system which is essential aspect of democracy. Undemocratic constitutions in Africa hinder democratic process to large extent in the continent. Example; in some countries the National Electoral Commissions are appointed by the president who is a member of a certain political party which is also contesting in the same election.
Lack of culture of political tolerance both among the individuals and the political parties where those in opposition group are seen as enemies to the ruling parties.
For that reason the freedom of assembly is violated as the political assemblies have been banned, hence the process of democratization is threatened
Minimal participation of individuals in most elections; this ah led to poor representation since the leaders are elected by a very small number of citizens. Example over 50% of registered voters did not participate in the 2010 general election.
Lack of independent and impartial national electoral commissions in most African countries. This stems on the fact that all the members of the national electoral commission are appointed by the president where by the criteria for that appointment are not clear and transparent, as a result the people loose trust and confidence in the commission
An element of corruption during electoral campaigns and elections in general where some of the political parties and candidates for most elections tend to bribe their prospective voters
Ignorance and illiteracy among the people on the importance of participating in the democratic processes, like voting in election, contesting in election etc. this hinders the whole process of democratization as it leads to the absence or scarcity of qualified people to fill various posts and the voters.