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Tanzania Opposition Lawmaker Demands Credible Elections

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Edward Lowassa, shown addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 2006, is seen as a divisive figure in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party but remains popular and has done well at fundraising.

FILE - Edward Lowassa, shown addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 2006, is seen as a divisive figure in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party but remains popular and has done well at fundraising.

A prominent Tanzanian opposition lawmaker has called on the National Electoral Commission to implement new and improved measures to ensure the October general election is free, fair, transparent and credible. This comes as the commission compiles a voter list that would be used for the elections.

“We want to ensure the electoral commission supervises and manages the forthcoming general election in a manner that will ensure that the elections are as free and fair as they could be,” said Parliamentarian Tundu Lissu.

He says the electoral body has yet to administer credible elections, which he says could make prospective Tanzanian voters have confidence in the country’s electoral process.

Lissu says opposition groups have not been comfortable with the manner by which the National Electoral Commission has organized elections in the country.

“We are not confident considering the history of the electoral commission. But, what we are confident about is that this time around we are better prepared and ready to face the ruling party in a manner that we have not been since the onset of multiparty democracy 20 years ago,” he said.

“So even though the electoral commission is not what we would like to see it being, this time around we are prepared to fight it out regardless of the problem relating to the independence of the electoral commission.”

Lissu who is from the opposition Chadema party also says the defection of former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi [CCM] or Party of the Revolution, to the group is a significant shift in the dynamics of the country’s politics.

He expressed confidence that the defection weakens the ruling party, which he says could enable a united opposition front to break the dominance of the CCM. The ruling CCM has been in power since the country gained independence in 1961.

Lissu says the former prime minister also defected with many supporters to join the ranks of the opposition Chadema party.

“He literally guts CCM of its considerable support. He is the most powerful figure in the CCM until a few days ago when he crossed over…We are stronger than we have ever been. There are still some considerable areas of the country where we are not as competitive as we would like to be. Former premier Lowassa will supplement our effort in those areas where we are not as powerful as we should be,” said Lissu.

But, some supporters of Chadema expressed their displeasure with the defection saying that Mr. Lowassa is tainted with corruption. Mr. Lowassa resigned as the country’s prime minister after being accused of corruption.

Lissu says he shares the concerns of the opposition supporters but added that Mr. Lowassa brings significant fire power to the arsenal in the party’s quest to wrestle power from the CCM. He also says Mr. Lowassa has yet to be convicted of any crimes. He adds that the former prime minister is innocent until proven guilty, a measure, he says is enshrined in the constitution.

“If we want to win this year’s general election, we have to make an honest assessment of our own power and our resources and our support across the country. The honest assessment that we made tells us that on our own and with CCM united, we can’t beat them,” said Lissu.

“With Lowassa out of CCM, our pollsters tell us that we can take CCM on and win. So, while it is very good to keep our innocence as it were to keep our clean record, if we want to do away with the CCM that bred and protects those [corrupt] elements in our society, this is the time.”

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