ON THE LEGITIMACY OF AN ELECTION - DID HE WIN? By. M. M. Mwanakijiji There are four types of election results that need to be appreciated and well understood before making a commentary on whether an election has been free, fair and transparent. It is only when the four types are understood by critics, political pundits and ordinary citizens then a correct analysis can rationally be made. Without such an intellectual understanding one would find himself or herself commenting out of passion and political bias the outcome of the election. This is true in Tanzania as well as in more democratic nations such as the US, UK or India. It is imperative that we understand these results and how they relate to each other and how they will determine the credibility of the electoral process. Only then a rational articulation on the legitimacy of winners can fully be made and welcomed. The types of electoral results are: a. Original Results b. Official Results c. Legitimate Results d. Illegitimate Results Original Results - these are the electoral results as they were recorded at the polling stations by voters free of coercion, intimidation or manipulation by anyone through a secret ballot. These kind of results represent the "true intention" of the voter in an election. When a voter walks into a polling booth he or she will indicate in a proper acceptable manner which candidate she would prefer for a certain position. Once this indication is made then the voter drops his or her ballot paper in the ballot box where that particular vote would remain there until the end of polling time when it would be collected with the other votes and opened up to see what that voter had chosen. Once this choice is accepted as a "valid vote" by proper authority and lawful representatives of various candidates or political parties then the vote is counted towards the voter‘s candidate. These results once legally validated represent the true intentions of those individuals who participated in that election as voters. Once all the votes for all candidates, issues or proposals in an election are counted and the invalid votes eliminated then the person/issue/proposal with the most valid votes at that particular polling station wins. In any election, these are the votes that really count and need to count for only them represent the true and absolute will and intention of the voter. It is for this reason, these votes need to be protected at any cost. For if these can be manipulated or somehow tampered with the election itself becomes invalid. Official Results - once the original votes have been recorded for each candidate in an acceptable form and certified then a proper authority (in Tanzania's case, an Assistant Returning Officer) will declare them to be official results at that particular station and will post them in an inconspicuous place at that polling station for the public to see. These official results posted at the polling station MUST be the same as the original results as certified after voting. They CAN NOT BE DIFFERENT. Not even by a single vote, there are no decimal points or fractions in the official results. The aim of an election anywhere is to have the official results that reflect in an absolute way the original results of the voters at the polling stations. Ideally, there can not be any deviation between the original results and the official results. However, in a major election some discrepancies might arise along the way due to clerical or mechanical errors. But, in a more advanced electoral system safeguards have been put in place to ensure that when certain indicators are observed or when a certain threshold of vote differences emerge then a recount may be triggered. This can be done in a the local election precinct or in a larger setting such as parliamentary or presidential election. For example, in some parts of the US when the vote difference between the winner and the loser is less than 1000 votes then an automatic recount is performed so as to ensure that difference is not due to some errors. This would have helped very well in such cases like in Shinyanga Urban where the vote difference between the winner (CCM) and the loser (CHADEMA) is one vote! Therefore, before official results can be announced all doubts need to be removed and dealt with in such a transparent manner to remove any feelings of rigging or tampering with the election. This is a very important ingredient of a democratic election. Legitimate Results - are the official results that can stand a legal challenge and meet certain conditions of an election. When looking for legitimate results the matrix becomes a little bit wider and deeper - here the issue is not just the votes as counted or as announced - it is more about the process of election than just the results. One of the dangers that I have noticed in this past election is a new kind of political attitude where what matters is the result as announced not the totality of the election itself. There are some people who are more on the results to the point that once results are announced they will not dare to challenge the process or question the legitimacy of those results for to them once the results are out then "its over". This is shameful for if what matters to the people is just the results then somebody will come up with a way to give us the results we want or in chakachuaded democracy, the results they want. In a true democracy the results are part and parcel of the process that created them. One can not split the voting from the results; the process from the outcome. In other words, official results must be able to withstand all legal challenges and must show that voting process was free of manipulation (such as voting suppression), right and contained minimal irregularities. The results to be legitimate they have to have been counted right and the people who wanted to vote and were registered to vote and came out to vote actually did vote. The whole voting process, the counting of votes and declarations of winners must be free of manipulation or irregularities that could have changed the outcome of an election. For example, as we approached the election day one of the most common things people used to say was that "Kikwete is going to win no matter what". When pressed some people admitted that they would vote the opposition but CCM/the Government would do everything in their power to win even "to steal votes". I remember very well why I came very strong against such sentiments because I recognized it to be tactic used to suppress voting. Even other forms of voter suppression such as the infamous "statement" by Brig. Gen A. Shimbo which was a political tactic to scare voters I believe was used. Otherwise, there need to be a very scientific way to explain why voting in such a popular election was at 42% of registered voters. Unless there was some kind of voters suppression I can not come up with a rational way to explain that percentage bearing in mind that in the past straight elections we have never had voters turnout less than seventy percent Therefore, in order to have legitimate results not just the votes must be valid but the whole process must have been free, fair, and transparent. This is important because, one can have original results and official results but due to irregularity in the process the final results could be illegitimate. In a true democracy legitimate results are the results that distinguish tyranny from democracy- it doesn't matter if it's a tyranny of a single individual or that of political elite or of both! You can have a free and fair electoral process up to the voting day but without la free, fair and just legitimate process of voting, counting, and announcing of results and acceptance of winning or losing you can not have a free and fair election. Illegitimate Results - these are those results that are presented as official results and are pushed by authorities to be accepted by the people while they are not the same as the original results as recorded by voters in polling stations or do not represent a legitimate process of voting, counting or pronouncement of results in the polling stations. I will use an illustration here: If in a polling station candidate X has 500 votes and candidate Y has 300 votes, and in another station candidate X has 400 votes while candidate Y has 1000 votes then when the final tally for those two stations should show that candidate X has 800 votes while candidate Y has 1400 votes. If this is the case and are agreed by all involved then the results become official. But, when the official results are posted outside and the results show that candidate X has 1500 votes instead of 800 as counted and verified then we have illegitimate results - though official - which should force a recount or a rejection of the final results even if the results have been declared to be official (final). A very good example is the case in Ivory Coast where due to an illegitimate announcing of winners the country finds itself with two people claiming to he Presidents. One, was declared by his friends who hold authority in an electoral appellate body - which overruled the electoral commission. The other former prime minister who was declared to be a winner but the announcement was overruled. This has led most countries recognizing the later but not the former although the "official results" has declared the former to be the president and he commands the military and other government entities. In that case then we have "lawful" president but Illegitimate one. Other examples can be cited especially in the US; When President Bush was declared to be a winner by the Supreme Court some people did not consider his winning to be legit though was legal. The same case apply today to some die hard ‘birthers' who have been adamant in questioning the legitimacy of President Obama arguing that he was not born in the US and therefore could not be a legitimate president. Now, it were demonstrated that indeed he was not a naturally born US citizen then some people could in fact question the validity of his presidency. All this simply means our current electoral system is created in such a way that the possibility of having an illegitimate leader exist. Not just in the presidential level but as well as in lower levels. Fortunately though in lower levels the people have a way of question the legitimacy of those declared winners. However, in the presidential level such a possibility doesn't not exist for once the person has been declared a winner there is no any authority in Tanzania that could challenge such a declaration in any court. This simply means, if we do not change our electoral system we will find ourselves worrying not about voting, not about counting of votes but on who is going to be announced the winner in the presidential election. Which means, a person in power might try very hard not to win in the ballot box through a fair and just competitive environment but win through the National Election Commission. That would a direct assault on democracy as it known. We have to remember that the legitimacy of an election has to do with justice not just the voting. In order to have a legitimate leader all issues of injustice need to be dealt with so as to remove any possibility of a claims of illegitimacy. In order to have such a just system two elements need to be present in the electoral system; one, a system of logging and resolving issues of grievances and secondly, a system need to have a level of transparency that guarantees fairness and free exercise of the people's will in the ballot box. This transparency has to be of such a way that at the end of an election there would be no ambiguity of what has just happened. You can not have an electoral system where people wonder if the pronounced results actually reflected their voting For sometimes we have been repeating the words "free and fair" when speaking of an election. The time has come to insist that the election not only has to be free and fair but the whole process must provide at the end legitimate outcomes. Only legitimate outcomes need to be assented to, defended and recognized. Otherwise, we will sink slowly in a new political system where legitimacy of an election is despised and frowned upon. No friends, legitimacy of an election define the level of democracy. In our case, the system does not guarantee a legitimate outcome, more so in presidential votes than anywhere else. It is our duty and indeed need to be our mission to push for a new constitutional system where by we will no longer have an issue with the legitimacy of the declared winner; for right now we do.