Democracy isn’t just behaviour but workable problem-solving methods

25Mar 2022
The Guardian
Democracy isn’t just behaviour but workable problem-solving methods

DEMOCRACY stakeholders in our country are bristling with proposals for reforming the way in which the political arena is administered, after more than half a decade of restrictions on activities of political parties.

It is evident that much ground has been covered, though the path ahead is uncertain, as the government wants restrained expression tied to what is being done in policy action.

It would also be happy seeing that, if there is wrongdoing, concerns should be raised in a procedurally sound manner, not rallying the people to demonstrations. The point has been made.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan has just received proposals and recommendations of a task force appointed by the political parties registrar, reacting to most of them and demanding precision on a few key demands, including that on an independent electoral commission.

The task force appeared to postpone expected follow-up on the key opposition demand for a new national Constitution until after the next General Election (come 2025), which the president similarly accepted.

Other proposals are being floated by well-placed stakeholders, among them the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).

Two proposals that the centre raised have been on the agenda since the multiparty system was restored, in 1992. We have thuds had 30 years of contesting the principle that presidential election results be challenged in court, or that we ought to have private candidates.

The trouble with the manner in which the proposals have consistently been made – and failed – is that they don’t say what the likely scenario would be when they are put into application, and how it would thereafter be dealt with.

Those for the idea of presidential election results being contested in court are expected to show how that would not lead to instability.

This is a logical issue that hasn’t been worked upon because the proposals are aired as if in pursuit of party loyalties rather than a well-considered view on managing the political platform.

Much the same is the case for private candidates – the belief that the idea of crossing to the opposition is daunting for most ruling party cadres.

LHRC, for instance, have not been very clear on how political rallies ought to be conducted, how far political parties would have to exercise restraint in what they say, or how this tendency can be checked by prior reforms to remove the crying need to “overthrow” the ruling party.

That is why a heavy dose of reforms to reduce the temptation to “take over” the state and all economic organisations it operates, by placing them under joint ventures with strategic investors, is essential for democratisation to move forward.

Holding back on democratisation isn’t on the agenda at present, but walking into multiparty democracy without safeguards about political behaviour and its causes isn’t much helpful either. And this explains the need to exercise care and caution.

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