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Why Igunga by-election is significant to our national politics

11th September 2011
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With hardly a month left for the Igunga by-election in Tabora Region to take place, ears of all those with keen interest in national affairs are being tuned to this part of the country.

In the old not so good days when one political party used to dominate the country’s politics and elections were, in a way, a formality, by-elections did not produce much excitement and political heat. This is now history. The scenario has changed, and political parties battling it out in Igunga have a rough and tough time.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), is definitely hell bent to recapture the seat left vacant by the controversial Rostam Aziz of the “gutter” politics fame. For CCM, it is a do-or-die affair as the party would like to dispel the notion that its internal power hunger wars have made it too vulnerable to perform well in present and future elections.

The Civic United Front (CUF), on the other hand, claims to be very popular in Tabora region, and wants to prove the assertion by winning the Igunga seat. You have the Chama Cha Demokrasia na Mendeleo (CHADEMA), seriously entertaining the belief that it is the ruling party-in-waiting, with the capability of flooring its rivals fairly and squarely.

Then you have the escorting small parties which, as expected in politics, are promising to deliver surprises reminiscent of the biblical David versus Goliath encounter! It is political wishful thinking galore in Igunga.

With this kind of political competition reigning, which some political observers consider as good in a society still going through the birth pangs of democracy, the next three campaign weeks are not only likely to provide some entertainment tempered with a certain measure of tension, but may also help to provide a few lessons about the nature and future trend of the country’s electoral practices, exactly one year after the controversial October, 2010 general elections.

In other words political analysts, and even laymen, will have a unique opportunity to use Igunga as a testing laboratory to get a few ideas on whether we are improving or continue to blunder insofar as managing elections and conducting ourselves during this vital exercise is concerned. The fact that focus will be on one constituency will make the evaluation much easier, compared to the daunting task of assessing the electoral process when elections are taking place countrywide.

Institutions likely to be subjected to microscopic investigation in Igunga include the National Electoral Commission, political parties playing ball in the constituency, security organs, our anti-corruption watchdog, local government institutions and the media. To be observed also is the electorate.

The National Electoral Commission was accused of a number of sins of omission or commission during the 2010 general elections, including delays in delivering stationery and other facilities to polling centres, poor tallying of results, delay in announcing the results, being infiltrated by national security operatives etc. Will these accusations resurface in Igunga?

Security forces were accused of being partisan in handling alleged misbehaviour of party followers. They were said to be tough on unruly opposition fanatics but lenient on the ruling party unruly zealots. Will the allegation recur in Igunga?

Some politicians are accused of having bribed voters in 2010, using all sorts of tricks and various forms of bribery, while some potential voters are blamed to have literally sold their voting right. Will money change hands in Igunga?

Then you have some media outlets and individual journalists, believed to have thrown professional ethics out of the window and succumbed to cheque-book journalism. Will they resist the temptation in Igunga?

Some observers say our anti-corruption watchdog, that is TAKUKURU, did not flex its muscle as required in October 2010, meaning the business of vote buying and selling flourished in various parts of the country at the climax of the exercise. Will it do better in Igunga?

Surely, there is more than meets the eye in Igunga by-election.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant hmuhanika@yahoo.com

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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