The national Electoral Commission (NEC) plans to employ its own returning officers to supervise constituency elections in the 2012/2013 fiscal year, instead of district executive directors, many of whom are commonly perceived as biased.
The NEC decision comes amid complaints from stakeholders and political parties calling for replacement of public servants, mainly the District Executive Directors to ensure fair and free elections mainly at constituency level.
NEC Chairman Judge Damian Lubuva made the remarks in Dar es Salaam yesterday shortly after closing the Electoral Commission Forum for SADC countries jointly organised by NEC and the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development.
Judge Lubuva said the move will increase transparency and enhance democracy especially during the elections. He said the new employees shall perform their duties independently and would be given permanent offices.
“The returning officers at district and municipal level will be provided with offices where they would perform their duties without interference from anybody,” he said.
According to him, they are now in the process of recruiting the new employees in accordance with the set qualifications, adding that they will be officially employed in the next financial year.
Meanwhile the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Investment and Empowerment) Dr Mary Nagu has called upon electoral commissions in SADC countries to make sure that elections are free and fair.
She said complaints normally arise in every election as all those involved in the process would like to win. She said it is obvious for the defeated party to complain and sometimes oppose the results.
“Issues of transparency have great value in ensuring successful free and fair elections,” she noted.
Dr Nagu said it is important for stakeholders to conduct civic education to both the public and political parties on various issues related to elections so as to reduce complaints
She said that electoral commissions should not be aligned with any political party, adding that such commissions should be free to fairly supervise elections to avoid post election chaos.
The conference drew participants from 13 African countries -- representatives of election management bodies from several African nations, regional bodies, senior government officials, political and opinion leaders from Tanzania.
For his part, Kasulu Urban MP, Moses Machali (NCCR-Mageuzi) applauded NEC for the decision saying it would be an ideal move compared to the previous system.
Machali said for a long time political parties in the country have been demanding for an independent commission, so having its own returning officers would somehow help to ensure free elections.
He however cautioned that the system is likely to increase government expenditure because during the period when there are no elections, the returning officers would be idle, while being paid.
The Civic United Front (CUF) Deputy Secretary General (Mainland) Julius Mtatiro congratulated NEC saying it has made a right decision. He said CUF has been in the forefront in calling for an independent electoral body.
Mtatiro said there are still some challenges since NEC Chairman and Director are appointed by the President.
He said the returning officers should be recruited in a transparent manner.
CCM Publicity Secretary, Nape Nnauye said the decision by NEC follows the advice from President Jakaya Kikwete. He said the President’s advice was aimed at reducing complaints after elections.
“Some people think that CCM conspires with returning officers to arrange election results. That is why we have decided to come up with such an idea,” he noted.
Nape said the new system is likely to be expensive but it is necessary to have it to ensure fair and free elections.