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Voters Are Ready for 2010 General Elections in Tanzania

Published on Saturday 30th October 2010 Voters Are Ready for 2010 General Elections in Tanzania

THE 72 days of the 2010 general election campaigns come to an end on Sunday when Tanzanians go to the polls to elect the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, President of Zanzibar, MPs, Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives and councillors who will lead this country in the next five years.

The process that pitted all the 18 fully registered political parties saw majority of the parties dropping on the way because of various reasons mostly financial resources. As the campaign process comes to an end, three political parties - CCM, Chadema and CUF -- have made it to the finals. "This explains that political election process is an expensive affair,' according to political analysts.

Awareness campaigns that have been going on before and during campaign processes have given enough time to Tanzanians to listen to political parties' aspirants to market their parties' manifestos and policies. Time is now approaching whereby Tanzanians are set to elect leaders they convinced will lead them to higher levels of development. The Director of Elections in the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mr Rajabu Kiravu, says election is an important undertaking aimed at strengthening democracy.

It is, therefore, important that every adult and legally recognized Tanzanians exercise their constitutional rights to participate in electing leaders. The exercise has been preceded by voter education at all levels whose objective was to mobilize Tanzanians to participate in the election of the President, parliamentarians and councilors whom they believe will bring about development and boost the democratic processes in the country.

Apart from listening to election aspirants, the electorate are also asked to be mindful of; ensuring they registered with the permanent voter register-short of which they will not be allowed to take part in the election exercise, take care of the voting cards, not cheated to sell them by any means, and they must fulfill their constitutional rights by voting for leaders who will give priority to issues of national interest. Voters are also reminded to take necessary precautions on the voting days.

Essentially, they are not expected to go to the polling stations with any identification depicting colours of a particular political party, any kind of weaponry is disallowed and any sign of chaos in the polling station will be dealt with in accordance with the law. The evil of corruption in political election process has dominated awareness campaigns throughout the campaign period.

The electorate has been advised to be weary of aspirants soliciting for votes through corrupt practices-they must be rejected outright because they advance personal rather than national interest once they are elected to leadership. Interest groups have been active during the campaign period. Their campaign awareness focused on question to aspirants on, for example, what they intend to do to ensure observation of human rights, promotion of social issues-health infrastructure, transportation, water and education for their children, as well as the rights of children and empowerment of women.

It is the campaign that has drawn international attention. Already international and regional observers are in the country and have been deployed to several parts of the country to observe the voting exercise. They include observers from; European Union (EU), African Union, Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and a host of local observer groups such as Tanzania Election Monitoring Committee (TEMCO).

There has been general observation that the process has been going on well, with the exception of few cases of clashes between funs of opposing political parties. The first incident started in the launching of campaigns at Jangwani grounds in Dar es salaam in August ..Hate speeches marred Chadema campaign launch that forced the national Television- TBC-to suspend live broadcast of the launch campaigns. Reports of clashes between funs of opposing political parties have been received from Moshi, Arusha, Tarime,Mwanza and Maswa.

In the latest incident, clash between supporters of Chadema and CCM resulted into the death of the driver of CCM's parliamentary aspirant, Steven Kwirasa (26). Chadema aspirant, John Shibuda, has been held by police only to be released days after. Some sections of the public, for example, are of the opinion that this year's election process has been more difficult than the yester years. The issues of corruption could not be ruled out completely during the process. Firstly, they argue, it is only those with money who have sailed through.

The fact that rich people have now developed interest in politics, thus, contested in various political processes is an indication that monetary wealth is a condition to get into politics. They doubt whether or not these contestants, if elected on Sunday, will have the interest of the nation at heart. There have also been some kinds of suspicion among candidates as well as prospective voters.

This was evident in the way candidates from opposing political parties have been reacting into statements and comments from each other. "In a way this has derailed the purpose of the campaigns which, essentially, were meant to market manifestos of respective political parties so that the electorate could know and find reason to vote for them," they noted. Another suspicion was directed in the way university students' concern over their voting rights was handled by concerned authorities.

According to them, there was no point of asking the students to report between November 5 and 15, 2010, while they had been refused to report earlier and so that they could participate in the voting exercise in stations that they had registered before. To them, the students had been denied their constitutional rights to participate in the election exercise. But the National Electoral Commission (NEC) had responded to this concern by saying that students had been given ample time to update their voters registration cards so that they could voted in their respective places of domicile.

On the other hand, sections of the public have noted, there has been increased public awareness on the importance of participating in electoral processes and the value of their votes as an essential process of strengthening democracy in the country. They expressed hope that there would be fair play on the voting day, and that there will not be any kind of intimidation from any side.

Ms Gema Akilimali, an independent consultant in the city noted:"Tanzanians are ready for the elections. Only fair play is necessary to ensure free and fair elections." According to her, Tanzanians have observed the voting process in the US (During President Barack Obama's campaigns as well as during the actual voting) in the way the whole process went on smoothly. "Tanzanians have a lot of best practices to learn from one of the most developed democracies in the world."

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