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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Is our Parliament becoming a victim of `gutter politics`?

7th August 2011

As we may recall, the view that the kind of politics practised by politicians in the ruling party and other political parties in the land today is of gutter status has not been conceived by the writer of this column, but by a retired politician-cum-businessman known as Rostam Aziz.

He opined that gutter politics is anything but issue-driven. It is this appropriate definition which tempts some serious Tanzanians to wonder whether Parliament is becoming a victim of gutter politics or not.

Hopefully you are getting the point. What is at stake here is whether our 10th Parliament, blessed with a good number of men and women with good academic credentials and youthful vigour, is issue-oriented in discussing national matters or not.

And, is the behavior of MPs in the House during their short time in office meeting expectations of the electorate? What are the chances that it will perform better than previous parliaments?

Your guess regarding answers to the above crucial questions is as good as mine. What is crystal clear however, is that members of the public have so far witnessed what looks like a false start. Some are already disillusioned, while patient ones are willing to give our august house a chance, guided by the principle that it is never too late to mend one’s way of doing things.

We say the relationship between CCM and CHADEMA MPs in the 10th Parliament had a rocky start right from the beginning because of two incidents which provide evidence to this opinion.

First, was the walkout of CHADEMA MPs when President Jakaya Kikwete was about to deliver his Parliament opening speech. It was a gesture meant to emphasise the party’s allegation that he did not win the Presidential seat fairly and squarely.

The rationale behind this move remains controversial. What is clear however, is that CCM MPs were definitely not happy about the incident, feeling that it was an insult to the Head of State who also happens to be CCM National Chairman.

On the other hand, we immediately witnessed a move to adjust the Parliamentary rule on how chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees supposed to be headed by MPs from the opposition are chosen. In short, a change was made to ensure the opposition party with a majority of MPs does not marginalise other opposition parties and chair all the committees.

Only the politically blind cannot see that the above mentioned move, which sailed through partly because CCM commands a majority of MPs in the House, was deliberately designed to cut CHADEMA to size, or to partially clip its wings. Obviously, CHADEMA was not impressed, and this increased the quantity of bad blood in the psyche of the MPs hailing from the two hotly competing parties.

Tanzanians had hoped that through the healing power of mother time, the MPs would eventually let the bygones be bygones and team up to tackle the many daunting challenges facing the nation. These include the energy crisis, unemployment, corruption, misuse of national resources, mass poverty, and you name it. The list is long.

But what has happened in the course of time? As several observers and members of the public have noted, we see partisan politics being practiced at its worst.

Some MPs from the ruling party will oppose an idea voiced by an MP from the opposition, not on the basis of its merit but of its origin. And you have opposition MPs who think nothing good can come from the other side.

This kind of approach to national issues is behind the uncalled for heckling, booing, banging tables to interrupt MPs during debates, and all sorts of theatrics as well as antics now threatening the image of the otherwise reputable institution. Things become worse when the referees in the parliamentary game also fail to be as neutral as is humanly possible.

Since members of the public are open about their displeasure on goings on in Parliament, we hope the legislators will read the signs of the times and do the necessary. Lest they also end up as losers and get condemned by history.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant [email protected]

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