THE increase in spoilt votes and low voter turnout witnessed during the October 31 General Election is a cause for concern and a thorn in the flesh for democracy. Election stakeholders recently decried this cancer eating out Tanzania's electoral system.
The election results show that out of 8,626,283 ballots cast, 227,889 votes, an equivalent of 2,64 percent were spoilt. And, this is even higher than the bottom-placed four presidential candidates who collectively got 153,979 votes which amounts to less than 2 percent of total votes cast.
Just as expected, the blame game seems to have reared its ugly head with many fingers pointed at NEC while the electoral body on the other hand defended themselves, accusing the general public for some of the problems such as violence and failure to check names in advance, something that saw many people going back home without casting their ballots.
With the look of things, the voters' register seems to have been in shambles. NEC should start working on it now to avoid what happened last month from being repeated the next time we vote. NEC should go back to the drawing board and come up with a better way of registering voters. This will go a long way in reducing voter apathy as voters will be encouraged to go and vote without hustles.
Violence broke out in some areas due to various reasons and among them was the delay by NEC to announce results. This is another area that needs attention and by the time we hold the next elections, NEC should have acquired modern technology that will make sure that results are announced swiftly.
The postponement of parliamentary elections in seven constituencies and 23 wards was another blunder that should not be repeated. It's a sign of unpreparedness and a mistake we should learn from. Though the reasons for postponing elections in four of the constituencies can be understandable to a certain extent as mistakes do happen, the shortage of ballot papers that saw elections being postponed in three other constituencies should not be tolerated. This is a sign of a shoddy job and someone somewhere did not do his or her job.
What ever caused these blunders should be dwelt with to prevent them from reoccurring. NEC should make sure that sufficient ballot papers are printed so that democracy is not stifled. The papers should also be checked long before the elections so that any errors on them can be corrected in time.
On the issue of spoilt ballots, there is need to educate wananchi on how to vote and what to do when they make mistakes while voting. A lot, therefore, still needs to be done to address the problem of voter apathy and spoilt ballots.
This then means that preparations should start now, especially on educating the general public on the importance of voting and how to vote. There is need to change wananchi's perception of the electoral process as evidenced by their gesture of guarding votes in the past elections.
A lot of work needs to be done to change the public's attitude towards elections. Voter education should start now while on the other hand wananchi should be forthcoming when it comes to elections. Their full participation is required to make this democratic process a success.