SILENT OBSERVER, Dar es Salaam
TEACHERS in Tanzania are very angry. They have always been the country’s perennial election assistant returning officers. For the first time in the country’s election history, the government did not involve them in overseeing this year’s general election, particularly at polling stations.
President John Magufuli – the incumbent – did it on purpose. As he has done to other civil servants, he has not paid the teachers’ annual increment for five years since he came to power. He feared they would sabotage his plans to bar the opposition from parliament.
Therefore, what did he do? The job was given to the state apparatus – including the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS), the army, police, etc. They colluded with the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to defend the interests of the ruling party (CCM).
Now, CCM members are happy. But not all of them. For those who still cherish democracy, this is a setback to the democratic gains of the past three decades. For more than 25 years, Tanzania has been faring well as a steadily growing multiparty democracy. Now, with this “election,” it is a de facto one-party state.
Now, almost all the MPs will be from one party – the ruling party. Many people are still reeling from disbelief. But it has happened.
The opposition was totally locked out. Most of, if not all, their polling agents were locked out of the polling stations. Some of those who had arrived early at the polling centres were forcefully ejected by police because CCM and the elections officials wanted to smuggle in ballot-stuffed boxes.
The counting of votes was witnessed by CCM candidates and their agents alone. Therefore, CCM was a competitor, referee and judge – all rolled into one. And, even though they may pride themselves for coming out victorious, the process of rigging has hugely exposed the ruling regime’s weakness as a party that can no longer win an election without using armed forces and the highly compromised electoral commission.
Indeed, one may rightly say that Tanzania’s general election this year is worth including in the Guinness Book of Records. It has never been witnessed in Tanzania.