Sunday, 22 June 2014

Why NEC had lost credibilty to the public

The Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Judge Damian Lubuva (rtd) mid this week called on the public to have trust, confidence and good will towards the state organ.The call made in Dar es Salaam comes at the backdrop of perennial appeals by some country’s political pundits and activists calling for creation of an independent electoral body to supervise free and fair elections.   Judge Lubuva said the Commission has wrongly been branded unfair and not independent, adding: “The problem is not the commission but mistrust of some players in the country’s political arena
When the Cold War ended in 1989, it was the beginning of the end for a generation of African Big Men propped up by Moscow and Washington. Multiparty elections hit the continent with a vengeance. What was delivered ended up being a lot less than promised. Dictators brazenly repackaged themselves as democrats and either effortlessly won many of these contests — owning the mass media and controlling the security forces helped — or else smoothly passed the baton to hand-picked acolytes.But those days have passed. In a growing number of African countries, elections are bitter, close, and can actually end up overturning administrations. So the mechanisms of the polls themselves have come under unparalleled scrutiny, both from those bent on rigging and those determined to see some resemblance between public opinion and eventual outcome. Hence the technological craze. In Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland and Ghana, electoral commissions have all recently introduced biometric technology — which recognises fingerprints and facial features — to draw up new electoral registers. Mali and Togo plan to follow suit, and there have been calls for Zimbabwe to do likewise.

A ‘clean’ register, the theory goes, eliminates thousands of ‘ghost’ voters who sit unnoticed on manually compiled registers. It prevents over-voting and ballot-stuffing, two favourite rigging techniques. Biometric registers might eventually allow citizens to vote wherever they happen to be, geographically, come election day. Kenya went even further with its 4 March election. In what was billed as Africa’s most modern poll, voters would not only identify themselves biometrically. To ensure complete transparency, each returning officer would transmit the results, using handsets provided by the country’s biggest mobile phone network, directly to a giant screen at the tallying centre in Nairobi.
At subsequent press conferences, EU and Commonwealth election monitors hailed the system as a marvel of its kind, an advance certain to be rolled out across the rest of Africa and possibly Europe, too. The enthusiasm was baffling, because almost none of it worked.
However, at different periods various people have demanded the establishment of ‘independent electoral commission’ being one of the highly contentious political issues. Lubuva expressed concern, saying ‘branding’ administrative bodies may not reflect reality and vitality of performance “unless right thinking members of society define and asses well the services of state organs.   “I am not rejecting the idea of having a free and independent commission but the challenge is… you might describe it (an alternative one) free and fair while realistically it may not be,” he asserted.

The NEC chairman was addressing religious leaders on a new hi-tech voters’ registration process which is expected to start in August.  Opposition politicians have repeatedly claimed that the structure of the commission makes it autocratic because the Chairperson and all the Commissioners (NEC) are appointed by the President. Also for Zanzibar, the chairperson of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) and all Commissioners are appointed by the President of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government (SMZ).  Earlier this year, Chairman of Constitutional Forum Deus Kibamba advised NEC to pursue its duties as independent body and emulate  the Independent Election Commission of South Africa (IEC) which he said attracts huge public support.  According to Kibamba an independent electoral commission is supposed to be inclusive, comprising persons appointed by independent authorities and not by the ruling party as is the case in Tanzania.

However, Tanzania law considers NEC, established in 1993 under Article 74(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977, an autonomous government institution.  The National Electoral Commission shall consist of the following members a Chairman who shall be a Judge of the High Court or the Court of Appeal of Tanzania or a lawyer who qualifies to be an advocate and they have been with the qualifications for not less than 15 years.  The Commission supervises and co-ordinates the registration of voters in Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the United Republic of Tanzania.  It also supervises and coordinates the conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections in the country and supervises and coordinates the registration of voters and the conduct of the elections of councilors. Now we see Corrupt regime after facing pressure from the opposition now Tanzania To use Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology .

NEC Chairman retired Judge, Damian Lubuva The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is set to re-register all eligible voters in the country through the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology in order to address the challenges of using the Optical Mark Recognition system.  Through the BVR technology biological information or behaviours will be collected and stored in a database for identification.  NEC Chairman retired Judge Damian Lubuva told journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the new technology will help to address the challenges such as  double registration, identify voters during elections and transfer voter information from one place to another especially when a person has shifted from where he/she was registered.  Lubuva said the exercise is scheduled to begin between August and September, this year, adding that a total of 298bn/- is expected to be spent on the exercise. “All voters in the permanent register will be re-registered but the exercise will also include the registration new eligible voters,” he said.  However, the NEC boss said that under the new system, all the registered voters shall be provided with new identity cards rendering the current ones invalid.  He said the Commission is working hard to ensure that the registration is completed in time to allow eligible citizens have IDs which will be used in the referendum for the new Constitution and the 2015 elections.

Lubuva added that the Commission has already conducted verification of registration centres which include villages and streets wards, saying they have increased from 24,919 centres to 40,015 in the country. “We have decided to increase the centres to streets level to bring the service closer to the people. This will make more people to go for registration and reduce complaints related to the distance from the centres,” he urged.  For his part NEC Director of Elections Julius Mallaba said under the BVR every eligible citizen shall be provided with a hard plastic identification card and the number on it shall be permanent and unique for the respective voter.  Mallaba called on people who have been registered in the Permanent Register to go with their current ID’s to the registration centers to simplify the re-registration process.  Last month the United Nations Development Programme promised to assist Tanzania to upgrade its voter registration system.

The UNDP administrator Helen Clark who was in the country for a three-day tour, said assistance in improving the electoral system was among the issues discussed with the President Jakaya Kikwete. She said UNDP would ensure that Tanzania used the biometric voter registration system before next year’s General Election. Opposition parties have been pressing the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to upgrade the permanent voter register because there were millions of qualified Tanzanians who have not been registered.  According to their research more than 5.3 million people cannot vote because the register has not been updated since 2010.  The permanent voters’ register was introduced in 2004 with the use of the Optical Mark Recognition which involved the use of Polaroid camera.

At the time, the biological data included passport size photos and signatures. Thumb prints were added when a digital registration kit was used during its updating in 2009.  For the second time the book was updated in 2009/2010 to register new eligible voters for the 2010 general election.
According to section 15(5) of the National Elections Act of 2010, NEC is required to update the permanent voters’ registration book twice after every general election. 

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