TANZANIA: Political tensions prior to 2015 referendum and general elections – multiparty dialogue needed more than ever!
Report by senior advisor Hanne Lund Madsen and project coordinator Susanne Adelhardt Jensen, DIPD
Annual meeting at a crucial time in Tanzania
On Monday 23rd of February 2015 the Tanzania Centre for Democracy held its Annual Strategic Round Table meeting at hotel Coloseum in Dar es Salaam. The Round Table could not have come at a better time as parties are preparing for the announced Constitutional Referendum in April and General Elections planned for October 2015. Having served two terms, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is ineligible to stand for a third term and the nomination process within CCM as well as within the other parties will soon take place. The referendum and election happen in the light of recent corruption scandals in Tanzania, and with the opposition criticizing the constitution making process, the timing of the constitutional referendum as well as the substance of the draft constitution Tanzania has always been recognized for having had relatively peaceful political processes and political stability since introducing multi-party politics in 1992. But with the run up for the 2015 referendum and general elections this could easily shift. Multiparty dialogue is therefore needed more than ever in Tanzania and the annual strategic meeting was therefore quite timely.
New actors in the annual strategic meeting
Participants in the Round Table were political leaders and delegates from all the major political parties in Tanzania as well as Country Representatives from UNDP and UN Women and The Danish Embassy. For the first time, the National Election Commission (NEC) and the Registrar of the Political Parties (ORPP) also participated in the annual meeting. It was a major improvement to have these two institutions on board in the annual meeting as they play a major role in preparing for the upcoming referendum and election. Their participation also resulted in a lively debate regarding the registration process and the biometric voter’s system that many of the participants were highly skeptical about. Participants raised concern around security and secrecy in the registration process and flagged the importance of trust in a true democratic system.
Working on common agendas – need for more women in politics
In his introductory remarks, the Vice Chair of Tanzania Centre for Democracy, Dr. Willibrod Slaa (from opposition party Chadema) emphasized the very important role that TCD has played during the last year in regard to promoting peace and stability among the political parties by bringing everyone around the same table to work on common agendas. As a common challenge for all, the vice chair called upon all parties to bring more women on board as nominees as he said “no serious party can longer ignore that women constitute 51% of this country and we simply need to be much better at including them in politics”. Many of the participants agreed with this challenge and several of the female participants here flagged their appreciation of the mentoring programme provided to female politicians by Tanzania Centre for Democracy in cooperation with DIPD.
Progress on the multiparty dialogue in Tanzania
Acting Chair of the TCD Roundtable meeting, Evod Mmanda (from the ruling party CCM) agreed with his colleague from the opposition and stressed that “political dialogue is important. TCD is a cross party platform that allow us to share our ideas and concerns. There was a time when political leaders did not easily come together – now we sit and share jointly. TCD is promoting tolerance and we need tolerance and freedom of expression”.
Also, the UNDP Country Representative, Phillippe Poinsot, in his opening remarks stressed upon the importance of multiparty dialogue in Tanzania and “how dialogues among parties successfully can address problems, ease misunderstandings and suspicions, generate confidence in the election system, and can inspire public confidence in politics and elections”. The Representative also clearly stated that “the political parties have a key role in managing and reducing those tensions. In fact no one else has a more important role to play”. As part of the presentation, the UNDP representative therefore also revealed that UNDP is now ready to support the political parties through providing technical assistance, advice and funding to multi-party dialogue. Senior advisor from the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, Hanne Lund Madsen warmly welcomed the growing support for multiparty dialogue initiatives through TCD as well as the capacity development efforts in making parties perform better in representation and accountability.
Politics captured by the elite?
The key note speech was provided by professor Max Mmuya who provoked the audience by claiming that the politicians across the political spectrum share a common agenda in regard to keeping the political power at their own hands. The citizens are excluded from political influence and the political processes are captured by a political elite in alliances with large corporate industries and intersts. This resulted in a lively debate touching upon topics such as corruption, protection of civil and political rights and the need for more civic education and political involvement at local level. Participants held different views on the political situation and the challenges ahead, but common for all was that they stressed the need for an institution like TCD to help keep a peaceful dialogue and peaceful election competition between the parties.
Multiparty dialogue needed more than ever!
Finally, the Director for Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) Daniel Loya presented the strategic priorities of the multiparty platform for 2015. In 2015 TCD will focus on strengthening multiparty dialogue at the local level – and especially target areas that have shown to be more conflict-thorn in earlier elections and seek to develop early warning mechanisms. TCD will also continue with the project on “Women in Politics”. Director Daniel Loya also stressed the importance of a TCD led cross party political delegation travelling to Kenya 2-6 March to visit the Centre for Multiparty Democracy and Kenyan politicians in order to learn from their important experiences with a constitution making process. Participants recognized the many windows of opportunities for TCD in the current political situation and the annual strategic meeting therefore ended with a call for TCD to be active and play its role in the months to come moving towards to elections.
DIPD supports democracy – not the winning of elections!
As part of the partnership visit DIPD held bilateral consultations with the ruling party CCM as well as with the two largest opposition parties, Chadema and CUF. Chadema has just entered into a new 2014-2017 party-to party partnership with the Danish Conservative Party focusing on strengthening their democratic approach. CUF is currently exploring opportunities for extending their democracy cooperation with the Danish Social Liberal Party. During the consultations, DIPD presented our new strategy “Ideas that can Inspire” that guide the overall support provided by DIPD both to multiparty engagement as well as party-to-party cooperation and discussed current challenges as experienced from each of the parties. The visit also involved meetings with the Danish Embassy.