The chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania has warned politicians to desist from soliciting votes at places of worship during their campaigns ahead of the upcoming October 25 general election.
This, after opposition party Chadema presidential candidate and former prime minister Edward Lowassa came under criticism after he was accused of campaigning at a church where he reportedly called on the Christian congregation to vote for him.
Officials of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) says Lowassa violated a pact signed by all political parties by campaigning at the church. They called on the electoral commission to punish the opposition party for undermining the accord.
Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Damien Lubuva says there would be consequences if politicians are found guilty of engaging in ethnic and religious pronouncements to win votes at places of worship.
“I strongly condemn that. It’s not in line with the 2015 general election guidelines, which were signed by all political parties, and among many other things was that they should not use places of worship as areas of carrying out campaigns,” said Lubuva.
“I strongly warned them not to do it again. If they repeat, we will invoke the Ethics Conduct Committee, in which they would be summoned, and if they are found to have breached [the guidelines] they are liable for some punishment, which includes maybe being barred from further campaign. That’s what I told them.”
Lubuva says the campaign so far has been largely peaceful and without violence. He praised the efforts of the political parties in underscoring the need to ensure there is no violence in the run up to the elections.
His comments came after religious leaders invited him to address them next week about Peace and Security during elections. Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal is also scheduled to open a Peace and Security workshop on September 14-15. The workshop will involve all political parties, civil society organizations and religious leaders.
“All over the country, everybody is hoping that the electoral process would turn up peacefully,” said Lubuva.
He also says the electoral commission will soon receive the ballot papers, which he says is currently being printed out of the country. Lubuva says his organization is fully prepared to administer this year’s vote.
“We have contracted with an international organization through the tender process, where we have followed the Public Procurement Act. So far, we hope things would go on as scheduled,” said Lubuva.
“The other voting materials, we even have some of them with us now and we have started transporting them to the various regions.”
Lubuva urged prospective voters to go to the polls on Election Day to choose leaders. He says voter turnout was poor in the last election, but expressed hope that this year’s vote could be better.
“We registered 20 million, but those who voted were less than 10 million. [Tanzanians] should not be distracted by statements being made by some of the parties that well, there is going to be the stealing of votes and I’m saying that is not known to us. So they should get ready for voting in numbers so that they can choose leaders of their own choice. That is my plea to the Tanzanians,” said Lubuva.
Chairman Lubuva says the electoral commission has implemented measures to smoothen the process of granting accreditation to both local and international poll observer groups interested in monitoring the elections.
“The process is very simply. You apply for accreditation through the ministry of foreign affairs. So far we have started accrediting quite a number of international and local observers,” said Lubuva.