Please save Tanzanians from such by-elections

Please save Tanzanians from such by-elections

Polling was held yesterday (April 1, 2012). Who won (and lost) isn’t of much consequence here — if only because all the candidates and their supporters pledged knee-jerk-fashion to better the lives of the Arumeru East people if elected.

At issue is, therefore, not who won, but how the winner will/can fulfill the pledges at a time when Tanzania is going through the thick and thin of impeding socio-economic constraints. For me, most disturbing was the language and subjects-matter used especially by the various candidates’ supporters in seeking partisan victory.

The language was sheer vituperation that bordered on the vitriolic, and could only come out of the minds, hearts and mouths of the most vicious among us! Vile accusations and counter-accusations flew forth, hither and thither, unabated: barbed verbal confetti that nobody really needed to hear or be the target of — and that nobody really needed to indulge in!

The ‘insults’ ranged from the criminal to the genealogical... One prominent campaigner denounced (wrongly) the ancestral status of another opposing campaigner! In the former case, campaigners accused ‘opponents’ of all manner and style of malfeasance and misfeasance that went beyond simple skulduggery.

One campaigner accused a rival of filching Church funds a decade ago. Another reeled off the ‘crimes/ufisadi’ allegedly perpetrated by prominent campaigners across the political divide…The accusations were as numerous as they were unbecoming, uncalled-for and counterproductive. Each camp sought to outdo rivals in efforts, albeit vain, to tar-and-feather the opposition with the brush of perfidy and every other evil in the Book — and out of it!

We’ll not dignify the insults in this lucubration by detailing same or the dramatis personae involved… Save to note that the more vocal protagonists in the whole fandango were the campaign supporters of the two political nemeses, the ruling Party of Revolution (CCM) and the Party for Democracy & Development (Chadema).

However, the Sisters of Fate aren’t always that disastrous… A badly needed moment of relief in the farcical proceedings that lasted a good three weeks came in the dying weeks of campaigning. The Tanzania Labour Party candidate reportedly forgot his mission, asking to be voted NOT as the next Arumeru MP, but as a councillor! That was about the only light moment bringing a relief of sorts, a sorely needed catharsis, to the series of near-tragic events!

But, no matter… The regrettable thing’s that the AruMeru-Mashariki by-election campaigns weren’t the first to have exhibited such an unholy mess of vituperation and acrimony. Nor are they likely to be the last anytime soon!

By-election campaigns — and even general election campaigns held quinquennially since the reintroduction of multipartysm in 1995 — have been generally and generously laced with sustained, bitter railing and condemnation across the board, across the political divide.

The objective hasn’t always been a noble one. It’s a matter of publicly disparaging one’s political opponents, painting them blacker than the Devil in the eyes of the electorate in general, and voters in particular. At the end of the day, this tarnishes not only Tanzania and its people, but also tarnishes Democracy as an otherwise cherished system of Governance the world over.

What can we do to cleanse ourselves as a truly democratic nation-state? One: we should do everything possible to avoid by-elections. One way of doing this is to adopt the proportional representation electoral model, whereby a seat that falls vacant is filled NOT through a by-election, but by the second-placed candidate in the last general elections.

We’re already doing this regarding Women’s Special Seats, whereby a vacant seat is filled by the lass next-down the list preferred by her political party. The only difference’s that, in this latter case, the successor is from the same party — unlike Constituency seats where the successor would come from a party other than the party of the predecessor!

But, no matter; it’s all in the name of Democracy and best national interests... This’d not only eradicate the by-election campaign curse complete with the associated acrimony and other shortcomings… It’d also save lots of money and other resources.

We’re told the Igunga by-election last year cost Tsh19bn in public funds. We don’t yet know how much Arumeru East will have cost the taxpayer and our development partners... Nor what future by-elections will cost!

Why not give the money directly to the constituencies for socio-economic development, instead of sending it down the political drain? Why not? I ask you! Opportunity should be taken of the ongoing Constitution-review exercise to toss by-elections out the window. This will no doubt serve Tanzanians much better. Cheers!

Mwandishi: Karl Lyimo

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