Ten political parties that had no representation in the last Parliament but have fielded parliamentary candidates in tomorrow’s General Election complained yesterday that they can’t afford engaging poll agents.
They described the situation as a recipe for a poor show by their candidates in the poll, who they said would have no one they trust to “guard” their votes, vowing not to accept the results of the election.
The candidates, all from Dar es Salaam constituencies, complained that the National Electoral Commission and the United Nations Development Programme’s Election Support Programme had denied them financial support while favouring the “bigger” other political parties.
Addressing a news conference in the city on behalf of his colleagues, Sauti ya Umma’s Ubungo candidate Wilbert Ngowi declared that the results of the parliamentary poll would be null and void “because of failure by those charged with ensuring a level playing ground for all players”.
Asked why they were still in the race if they had already decided to reject or dispute the results, he said they were abiding by the demands of the country’s electoral laws and process.
“We have spent everything (meaning all the money at their disposals) on campaign rallies and can no longer pay agents. It would be absurd to lump us together with the big political parties that have enough funds to run their campaigns to the end,” noted Ngowi.
‘The nature of the entire (election) process, including the hefty amount of money each party ought to cough up if it is to make it, makes it impossible for us to accept the results,” he added.
The Union for Multiparty Democracy, National League for Democracy, APPT Maendeleo, Democratic Party, UPDP, AFP, Jahazi Asilia, Demokrasia Makini and Tanzania Labour Party candidates concurred, saying denying “small” parties money with which to engage poll agents was “bad for democratic practice in young countries like Tanzania”.
APPT Maendeleo’s candidate for Ukonga, Elizabeth Masanja, meanwhile faulted UNDP’s commitment to ensuring 50 per cent representation of women in decision making bodies “when it is doing little to facilitate our participation in elections”.
Meanwhile, the National Electoral Commission has warned that those planning to remain at polling stations after casting their votes ostensibly to guard their parties’ votes would be committing an offence “as stipulated by the law”.
NEC elections director Rajabu Kiravu, sounded the warning in Dar es Salaam yesterday, insisting that law clearly states that no person or a group of people are allowed to remain near polling stations after casting their votes.
Kiravu also declared that the commission was not disturbed by threats from poll agents to stage a boycott unless they are paid allowances, saying the move would not in any way affect the election results.
Human rights activists said last week that financial constraints would make some political parties fail to deploy poll agents, suggesting that the default would have an adverse impact on the election.
The activists were from 17 non-governmental organisations grouped under FemAct and voiced their concerns at a meeting also attended by people with disabilities and some university students.
Onesmo Olengurumwa, from the Legal and Human Rights Centre said it, was hard for activists to prevent the theft of votes at polling stations in the absence of big enough numbers of agents.
He however, added that they would monitor all stages of the election as closely as possible “so that we can come up with a comprehensive report on the entire process”.
The African Union, the European Union and the Commonwealth are some of the foreign or international organisations that have dispatched teams of observers to Tanzania, specifically to monitor Sunday’s election. These will be working alongside teams of Tanzanian observers.