Role of Speaker, significance of parliament: strategic challenges ahead

Role of Speaker, significance of parliament: strategic challenges ahead

The new Speaker of our noble parliament, undermentioned resignation of Job Ndugai will take place sometime this month in its history following a significant number of candidates that have shown interest in the post.

Although not quite sure why the turnout of candidates has been so big, whoever will be lucky to be elected amongst many has to bear in mind that he or she will be taking office at a time of unparalleled public attention and scrutiny of the role. 

Today’s setting, in my view compared to the previous situation will provide both challenge and opportunity for whoever is to be elected.

Without getting into the kitchen where food is prepared before is served and consumed for the health of our bodies, it is my wish the candidates campaigning to be Ndugai’s successor must set out a vision for how they would run the most respected body as an institution and represent it to the outside world.

The strategic challenges I foresee relate to two main aspects of the Speaker’s task. The first is his or her visible role: presiding debates in the chamber, acting as a referee and ensuring the House’s procedures and techniques are obeyed comprising by translating those procedures where necessary.

The second re-counts to a less visible, but no less important, role in the management and administration of the house. As chair of the House which sets a strategy for running the House that is then delivered, the Speaker is responsible for the governance and running of the parliament affairs in the house.

Furthermore, the Speaker has an overarching role as the public face and voice of the parliament as one of the three pillars or an institution, whose decisions are expected in a way to hold the government responsible for what is dedicated to delivering to its citizens. Whoever is to be elected must opt how he or she wishes to fulfill these different parts of the role.

The recent resigned Speaker, Ndugai was elected with a majority vote and as speaker performed his part until he tabled his resignation.

Nonetheless, the candidates aligning and somehow campaigning to be his successor must in my view also outline the platform on which they are going to stand and firmly articulate their vision for how the Speaker should act in interpreting the House’s procedures as an institution and on behalf of it to the outside region and the world.

One important aspect, unlike previous speakers, from the moment he or she is dragged to the chair, the new Speaker will be in my view the spotlight but he or she will also have an opportunity to help shape responses to each of the following issues that I consider are critical in the current situation.

The Speaker is the ultimate go-between of house procedure. The resigned Speaker, since his election couple of years and re-elected, he played his part to hold the government to account, but that now is history.

For the new Speaker, to be dragged in uncertainty over the use of some definite procedures, as well as broader questions about how to handle a more assertive parliament session and parliament affairs are likely to persist unless endeavours are made to address these issues are clearly defined.

As a common citizen, with somehow limited knowledge, four key strategic challenges would be facing the new Speaker’s role in the use of parliamentary procedures.

These are interpreting and applying playgrounds procedure, encouraging review of the playgrounds’ formal powers and facilitating debate over the capacity of the house to control its agenda

In addition to a few mentioned strategic challenges, the new Speaker will also need to reflect on how to ensure that Parliament is a fit and proper workplace.

Meaning, working to ensure the security and well-being of everyone in the house. Leading the House through restoration and renewal while ensuring mechanisms to articulate the role and value of the parliament and its work on be behalf of voters.

What I am envisioning and perhaps will come to light later is that the role of Speaker has changed extensively over its long history. Whoever next holds the position will help to further define and shape not only the role for future Speakers but create an environment that restores the value of the chair on matters of interest to the nation for the next generation.

Whoever to be elected will do so at a time of unparalleled challenges to the parliament: to its procedures, its value, its ways of working even its physical structure.

The new Speaker will not be able to address all these issues but he or she will need to build and maintain the support of others.  Teamwork and the ability to accept advice will in my view be one of the weapons if one wants to thrive.

Whoever to be elected needs to bear in mind he/she will also face greater and more intense scrutiny of their behaviour, decisions and approach to the role including overseeing certain interests on certain issues that might not be in line with his/her party interest and interest of Tanzanians.

During the campaign for the previous Speaker election, several candidates then stated their belief that the role of the Speaker itself needs reform, to boost accountability and transparency that in my view is the goal for voters.

The new Speaker to be elected, in my view, will have plenty in his/her tray. Although he/she will also have his/her priorities and vision for their time in the role, learning to be wise will be the greatest asset to withstand the sea waves that come to such chairs and roles.

But without attempts to appropriately and accurately tackle the issues edged above attempts that the Speaker can aid drive, but not command alone they are unlikely to be resolved.

The procedure is fundamental to the working of the parliament. However, this requires a shared understanding of how this works and how it is likely to be interpreted.

The use of certain procedures in bewildering and innovative ways, as well as the revival of others that had largely fallen into neglect, has created uncertainty about their future use.

It is very critical to be aware that the political impartiality of the Speaker is one of the office's most important features and most emulated or aspired to outside Tanzania. Once elected, the Speaker will have to sever all ties with his or her former party and is in all aspects of the job a wholly non-partisan symbol.


WHAT one could christen it as a ...

Mwandishi: Dr Hilderbrand Shayo

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