Tanzania’s Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told lawmakers Thursday that the government in Dodoma is looking at ways of completing the ongoing constitutional revision process before President Jakaya Kikwete’s second-full year term expires next year.
Lawmakers endorsed the newly drafted measure, which will be the country’s second constitution since independence from Britain in 1961.
In his address to parliament, the prime minister also suggested that Tanzanians should vote in a referendum to approve the proposed constitution at the same time they cast their ballot during the general election.
Officials say the endorsed constitution will be presented to President Jakaya Kikwete and Zanzibar’s Mohamed Shein on Wednesday October 8.
Member of Parliament Juma Nkamia, who is also Deputy Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, said a majority of parliamentarians warmly welcomed the prime minister’s suggestion.
“The prime minister said maybe it’s better to have a referendum and the general election simultaneously that when you vote for the president, you vote for the member of parliament, you vote for the councils then again they can vote for the new constitution altogether,” said Nkamia.
But some Tanzanians have expressed concern that there is not enough time to adequately prepare for a simultaneous referendum and general election next year.
Local media reported that Wilbrod Slaa, general secretary of the opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema party) faulted the parliamentary voting process that endorsed the draft constitution.
“Even the online voting was fraudulent …I have the online voting forms here, so a person can ask himself how capable the [parliament] was to ensure there was security of votes and the whole voting process,” Slaa said.
Nkamia said it was possible for the referendum and the elections to be held on the same day next year.
“It’s possible but sometimes it is very difficult because when you campaign for your party to be voted for and at the same time you campaign for the new constitution it is difficult. It is possible but it is very difficult to handle it simultaneously,” he said.
Critics say the government appears to be rushing to complete the new constitution. They contend the draft constitution is unlikely to lead to a governing document that represents the will of the people.
Nkamia disagreed, saying opposition groups failed in their attempt to derail the constitution-making process before lawmakers endorsed it in parliament.
“This opposition parties thought that if the constitution fails they can play a card to make sure that the ruling party is not in control of the government, but when they failed they keep on complaining,” said Nkamia.