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Arumeru East by-election: Victory for democracy

8th April 2012
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The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi last Sunday lost the Arumeru East constituency to Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) in a by-election following the death of CCM legislator Jeremia Sumari.

Chadema’s victory has taken the public by surprise, considering that the constituency had all along been a CCM stronghold. What does the defeat portend?

I take Arumeru's bye-election results as a big victory for democracy in Tanzania in several main aspects. One, as a lesson for all parties that the electoral process, if well governed and all parties observe the laid down procedures as per the law, will inevitably lead to peaceful outcomes.

Despite some panicky side-shows by the two most popular political parties which, if they had been left unchecked would have led to a breach of peace, the maturity shown by electoral commission officials and law enforcement agents yielded a peaceful end-result.

Secondly, that parties should always mainstream the importance of peace in their campaign messages, as was the case with both the strong parties during the campaign period.

I noticed national leaders and opinion leaders tirelessly preaching peace, although there wasn’t clear evidence that unofficial units of misinformation (a.k.a idara za fitna) had been demobilized given the side-shows of breach of peace reported by the media. The parties will also have learnt that voters are no longer to be taken for granted and money alone will not buy their loyalty.

It was more of a question of presenting a more plausible development agenda rather than the show of financial might or logistical equipment such as helicopters or vehicle convoys of the candidates. I believe that should be the norm in picking a winner in future elections.

I have in the past personally overheard voters expressing their dismay by what they termed as displays of extravagance and wastage of "our resources" even when I tried to explain that they were personal vehicles. As parties reflect on what made them win or lose, they should also take time to interview the voters to get their views

Chadema, for example, might learn that if they had messed up the internal preferential voting for picking the candidate they would have lost. I am certain that all parties will increasingly take more seriously the importance of building formidable grassroots institutions, with the understanding that any tree, however large or tall it might be, its future is doomed if the roots are weak.

Lastly, all the parties should learn the lesson of acknowledging defeat as demonstrated by the defeated parties in the Arumeru by-election. Acknowledging defeat, as was done by CCM's publicity secretary Nape Nnauye, tends to send a very strong signal of political maturity, thus strengthening democratic principles in the country and the East African Community.

Our leaders should always bear in mind that all countries within the region and beyond count on Tanzania as an opinion leader in political maturity and maintenance of peace and order.

Our political leaders should also know that any sidetracking of our democratization process and our zeal to build a society with good governance and the rule of law will affect our determination to create a strong and competitive economy, which, in turn, can allow us to ensure improved livelihoods for the people as articulated in Tanzania's Vision 2025.

The reasons for having political stability and peace are simple: investment in developmental activities cannot take place in a hostile and unpredictable social and economic environment.

It is of utmost importance for all stakeholders (in government, political parties, business and civil society) to wholeheartedly accept that democracy and democratic principles are here to stay as a way of life, hence there will always be winners and losers

Our leaders should let their fans appreciate that, just like in football, resorting to hooliganism when their candidate loses (or wins in some cases) will certainly attract sanctions and penalties.

They should not expect sympathetic exceptions when law enforcement agents undertake their lawful duties and responsibilities.

Dr Buhola Lunogelo is executive director of the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF).

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My five reasons why CCM lost

 

In my view, CCM lost in the recently concluded Arumeru East by-election for five main reasons. First, the party failed to translate the complex general statements in its election manifesto into simple practical solutions to the problems the voters faced.

People in the villages want to hear about practical solutions to their long-standing problems on water services, infrastructure, access to and ownership of land, education and the like. CCM had been in power in the constituency and could not solve all those problems.

Yet during the election campaigns, no special plan or even a hopeful practical solution was put forth, apart from the promises it gave as if the party was asking for votes for the first time. This was a must-lose situation for the ruling party.

Second, the party's campaign team, led by former president Benjamin Mkapa, engaged in personal attacks on other people, including people Mwalimu Nyerere, who is still revered by most Tanzanians.

Mkapa's attack on Vincent Nyerere and the response from his family members had some negative impact on the opinion of some voters, especially elderly people.

If you listen to the video clip in the so-called campaign speech by Mtera lawmaker Livisngtone Lusinde, you completely fail to get a point on the party's policy direction and values, such as mutual respect and fair treatment for one another. The party functionaries in the field completely misbehaved.

Third, the level of public awareness is increasing. Gone are the days when a party cadre would stand up at a podium, provoke gables or empty promises and be supported. Voters are very discerning nowadays.

It was wrong for example to simply think that people would vote CCM because of the promise made by Stephen Wasira who, at one of the campaign meetings, was quoted as saying that he would order the District Executive Director ( DED) to build a bridge the following day! Or Monduli legislator Edward Lowassa who promised to end the long-standing land conflict but had failed to do so when he was Land minister and prime ministerr. Any sensible person believed those were empty lies not worth supporting through the ballot box.

Fourth, events, trends and processes taking place elsewhere in the country had implications on the Arumeru East by-election. If you listen to what Chadema was preaching, it was appealing to the needs of the people. The use of force, tricks and allegations of corruption in the previous elections, including the by-elections in Igunga and Tarime and their aftermath, were all lessons to the Arumeru East voters.

It was evident that almost half a year since the by-election in Igunga was held, the promises to build roads and water wells were yet to be fulfilled. Why then choose a party that does not live up to its promises!

The last point has to do with the cost of living. It was very simple to make a close link between the hardships people are going through to get their daily bread and the failure of the ruling party to change the situation. Why then choose a party that cannot help voters out of the mess they are getting through!

One should not forget the facilities and services. CHADEMA used their chopper to reach as many places as possible, and that means they told their stories to many more voters as well. The reasons could be more, but for today this is my take.

Yefred Myenzi is executive director of the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRI)- Hakiardhi

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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