THE just ended 2010 election cycle has turned out to be one of its kind, perhaps can be compared to first multiparty elections 15 years ago. We have witnessed a good number of surprises with some big and influential names, the Goliaths, being felled by some little known Davids. The opposition had put up a spirited fight by making some inroads into CCM’s strongholds thus denying the sitting president the much anticipated landslide victory (ushindi wa kishindo).
The election has changed the country’s political landscape in a significant way and Tanzanians should feel proud in the manner they handled themselves even if some people do not agree with the outcome. After all, agreeing to disagree is part and parcel of democracy and we should learn to live with it.
However, in the process a number of issues have emerged and of varying levels of importance and/or implications to the future of Tanzania’s multiparty democracy. There is no doubt that the next few days, weeks, months or years are going to be interesting as academics and other political observers come up with in-depth, critical analysis of the what really happened. At this point in time it will suffice to highlight some few issues of interest.
First and foremost, is the issue of low voter participation in electing their leaders. We are told that only 42 percent of registered voters turned up to vote. This is a serious concern for any democratic-minded individual.
Fifteen years of multiparty politics and having spent billions of donor and tax-payer money on civic/voter education this is what we end up with, less than 50 percent participation. Something somewhere must have gone terribly wrong. This is the issue of future research and analysis by scholars and political activists.
Second, the role of opinion polls in our political and/or electoral process. I remember writing on the issue (Thisday, June 14-20, 2010: “The art and science of opinion polls”). I noted then that the nature of opinion polls is that they tend to generate controversies. Indeed, this time around stakeholders were subjected to three sets of opinion polls and as expected they raised hell with political parties, politicians, academics and media going for each other’s throat. Of course, when you have two or more sets of polls and each giving completely opposite view of one another then this is the most obvious outcome. More often, they raise the ‘credibility’ issue of those conducting the polls. Again, more work will be needed in this area so that in future opinion polls can have enhanced role in our electoral process.
Third, is the issue of public vis-à-vis private affairs in our politics. This remains a contentious issue that will continue to haunt our political leaders and those aspiring to become public leaders. The question here is: should there be separation between the two? May be, may be not. There is a great deal of interface between the two and any talk about separation amounts to hypocrisy.
Political leaders, though human beings like many others, they are supposed to be role models in the society. When you have leaders who cannot be trusted in their private lives how can they be trusted in public life? When you have leaders who are corrupt, liars, tax evaders, unfaithful to their partners and the like, one should expect the same in public. Though these are human failings they should be taken into consideration in choosing leaders.
Fourth, this time around the media people have not let us down, all things considered. True to their role as ‘opinion makers’ of sort the media outlets have always been there from start to finish. As I once noted in this column (Thisday, August 23-29, 2010: “Media’s right to inform or misinform?”) that ‘cheerleading’ could not be avoided, sometimes to the concern of the general public. Of course, this was expected as media houses compete for audience and, perhaps, income. The way media houses handled the announcement of results was quite impressive. With cute state-of-the-art studios, high-tech graphics and full-time correspondents, they really made our day. I could not help but ask one of my paparazzi friends whether the whole thing was paid for or was just doing public service!
Fifth, Tanzanians are still at loss as to what really happened during voting and vote counting process. They are still waiting for concrete evidence, from whatever sources, to the claim that there had been massive electoral fraud to a point of denying some political parties and/or politicians an outright victory. If no concrete evidence, not anecdotal one, will be forthcoming in the coming days then it is going to send a wrong message not only to millions of Tanzanian voters who bothered to cast their votes but to the whole electoral system. It will not be surprising if we get much lower turn out next time around.
Lastly, the outcome of this election is likely to have far-reaching consequences on our ‘infant’ democracy in general, electoral process in particular.
Much will be said and written in the days and weeks to come. In the process there are going to be more questions than answers but all the same there must be some efforts to provide answers, however crude they might turn out to be.
As some people have noted before, end of one election season is the beginning of the other. On the basis of these results political parties and politicians of all colours will be positioning themselves for the next round in the year 2015 where the presidency will be up for grab. By all indications it will make 2010 elections look like Sunday picnic, all things considered!