For many years since the country readopted the multiparty political system, political stakeholders especially from the Opposition camp have been calling for constitutional changes to enable one to challenge presidential election results. However, the Union and Zanzibar governments have been reluctant to endorse such constitutional changes. Only election results for Members of Parliament, House of Representatives as well as of councillors could be challenged in courts of law under the existing Constitution. The call for challenging presidential election results as well as for allowing independent candidates to run for elective posts has of late been backed by the European Union Election Observation Mission to Tanzania (EUEOM) as stipulated in its 30 recommendations pertaining to last year's General Election. Mr David Martin, EUEOM chief observer, who presented the report last weekend, said prohibiting one to challenge presidential results in court or to run for an elective post as an independent candidate was against international principles for the conduct of democratic elections. "The elections were generally free and fair and in accordance with the existing laws, but there is need for some reforms in the electoral laws, including the establishment of the right to petition election results in accordance with international principles for the conduct of democratic elections," he said, adding: "The right to stand for election should not be limited to members of political parties, but also to independent candidates." The Democrat Party (DP) national chairman has several times failed in his bid to ensure electoral laws allow independent candidates to contest for elective posts. "Following my discussions I feel confident that Government, opposition parties, civil society and the public will engage in debate on possible amendments to electoral laws and procedures. "In this context we are encouraged by comments from President Jakaya Kikwete and Madam Speaker Anne Makinda that our report will be examined as part of the process for amending the Constitution," Mr Martin said. EUOEM also recommended that the campaign period should be limited to around one month, as longer campaigns risked loss of interest among voters, let alone posing financial burden to nascent political parties. Transparency The final report also proposes that the National Electoral Commission (Nec) as well as its Zanzibar counterpart (Zec) should take measures to enhance transparency at all levels. The electoral commissions should publish and timely disseminate all the technical tools of the electoral process, including polling station lists, constituency lists, voters' lists and information on public financing of election campaigns. The media should be allowed to enter polling centres on polling days. This, according to Mr Martin, called for clear guidelines to be drafted by the electoral commissions in cooperation with the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT). Independent electoral bodies The commission recommended that Nec and Zec should become independent from the government as opposed to the current situation whereby the commissions heavily relied on local authorities' structures, which were likely to inhibit democracy. "Although there is no one singular mode of picking electoral commissioners, but the government should distance itself from the role of appointing electoral commissioners. The role should be played by a team with representation from all political parties and civil society organisations," he suggested. The judiciary, according to Mr Martin, should have a clear supervisory role over the performance and decisions of the electoral commissions. The media The process of reforming media laws both in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar should be taken into considerations by stakeholders. Laws should in the process clearly define the mandate and responsibility of state owned broadcasters to guarantee the broadcasters' independence from authorities, Mr Martin added. Electoral administration EUEOM further recommended that the constituency boundaries be reviewed to reflect actual population trends and to enhance quality electoral administration, transparent electoral process and equality in voting. "Equal suffrage requires that each vote carries the same weight," stressed Mr Martin, advising the government to take its hands off the administrative structure responsible for organising and implementing the electoral process. EUEOM urged Nec and Zec to establish a more effective platform for dialogue and cooperation with political parties and to ensure all stakeholders have access, clear and updated information. Election day The electoral commissions should introduce a system, which would record and indicated details of the missing registered voters at the polling stations. Such records should be forwarded to the commissions for scrutiny and further action. The role of security forces should be revised, Mr Martin said, observing that heavy presence of the forces at polling stations in Zanzibar did not forge tranquil atmosphere among the voters. Complaints and appeals Mr Martin said petitions filing costs should be reduced to effectively provide petitioners with the right to access justice and legal remedy.