Tanzania electoral commissions under fire over handling of poll
The East African, 8 November 2010
The East African, 8 November 2010
Controversy over the two Tanzanian electoral commissions and alleged Special Branch involvement on the side of the ruling party in the just ended general election, deepened last week with international observers and local political parties calling for a review of the commissions.
The Civic United Front (CUF), Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) and EU election observers are calling for an official inquiry into the involvement of the Tanzania Electoral Commission, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS) in helping Chama cha Mapinduzi win the election.
The explosive issue of the 2010 general election results threatens to engulf the two commissions, which have been criticised before for dragging its heels while investigating serious complaints.
David Martin, chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission in Tanzania, said the ruling party benefited from an historical control of the administrative structure that was sometimes indistinct from the well-organised CCM party structure.
Mr Martin said that the EU is also concerned about the independence of state organs from the incumbent party as large numbers of election-related key positions are directly or indirectly appointed by the Union president, who was also a candidate for re-election.
The EU is concerned by any delays in the announcement of the results as this creates both uncertainty and suspicion among the electorate and we have concerns about the transparency of the aggregation process, he said.
According to the EU, on the Mainland, CCM enjoyed the advantages of the incumbency and also what seemed a broad financial base allowing it to carry out campaigns with an overwhelming visibility compared with other parties.
Overall, the lack of sufficient financial resources undermined the campaigning capacity of the parties. The situation was worsened by an extremely long campaign period.
The EU also criticised the Tanzania election process, especially the requirement that candidates must be members of and proposed by a political party to stand for the general elections, saying this is not in conformity with international principles.
This requirement restricts the effective right and opportunity to stand for election of individuals who aim to contest as independent candidates and, consequently, limits the voters choice of candidates, said Mr Martin.
The East African Community observer team also criticised the Tanzania electoral process, saying that the polls had several flaws, including the limited time available for the distribution of election materials.
In its preliminary report, it says the one-week period the NEC gave itself left little time to correct errors encountered in distribution of election materials to the voting centres.
Abdul Karim Harelimana, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly from Rwanda, said that the voters register was published only one week before the election, leaving no time for the voters to verify their names.
The mission noted that the one-week period was not sufficient to correct any material errors that could arise if voters failed to verify or cross-check their names on the voters register, he said.
According to the EAC, many voters did not find their names in the register at many voting centres in several parts of the country, and most election supervisors tended to play down the complaints.
Prof Rwekaza Mkandala, chairman of the Tanzania Election Monitoring Committee told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam last week that the explanation by NEC personnel that delays were due to their lack of mastery of the new computerised counting system was not accepted by anxious voters.
Prof Mukandala said many party followers suspected that fake voting papers were being used to rig the election, making them determined to remain within the vicinity of the polling station to monitor all suspicious activities.
He said Regional and District Commissioners placed state resources like vehicles at the disposal of the incumbent presidential candidate.
In several places the presidential candidate in power addressed public meetings outside the legal campaign time [beyond 6pm] a practice which was then imitated by other presidential candidates, especially Dr Willibrod Slaa of Chadema, said Prof Mukandala.
There were several cases of new government decisions being announced or previously made decisions being reversed in campaign meetings, in violation of the code of ethics.
Dr Slaa said that the intelligence service was involved in manipulating the presidential votes. He said his party had uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the electronic voting systems, which he claimed were manipulated by TISS officers to give votes to CCM, raising concerns about what already looks to be one of the most divisive elections in Tanzania history.
My biggest concern is that in a very large trusted computing base, the threat of somebody with access to the development environment of the code base, particularly the vendor, basically is in a position to make the outcome of the election come out how they would like, and its virtually undetectable, he said.
Chadema also expressed concerns about the potential for vendors to influence elections, especially since, he said, some TISS officers had taken active roles in operating polling stations.
The Chadema candidate also alleged a plot to increase CCM candidates votes at the district tallying centre level. This, he alleged, was where the votes from the polling stations had been altered.
At Muheza, No. 40401 polling centre, the CCM presidential candidate got only 92 votes and Chadema scored 57, and this was recorded by our clerks and signed at the station. But the NEC announced 359 votes for CCM and 15 votes for Chadema, he claimed.
Chadema demanded the resignation of the National Security director, accusing him of failing to treat all Tanzanians fairly. The party also urged the international community and election observers to release their reports immediately.
The party also claimed that in five constituencies, results forms A and B for the presidential candidates and parliamentary candidates had vanished.
In a rare response, Jack Zoka, deputy director general of TISS, told The EastAfrican that the agency was not involved in the general election as claimed by Chadema but was monitoring the security of the country.
Dr Azaveli Feza Lwaitama, a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, said it was difficult to declare outright that the elections were fair, When the playing ground wasnt level with some candidates and parties having more resources than others.
Dr Lwaitama said the mechanics of running NEC needed to be improved even though the performance of the electoral body was better than in previous elections.
Maybe more resources are required for NEC for it to attract the best personnel in the market, instead of relying on people who werent necessarily in the career of manning elections, said Dr Lwaitama.
Reported by Mike Mande, Joseph Mwamunyange, Doris Ndeketela And John Mbalamwezi in Tanzania.