THE special significance of the 1995 general elections, was that they were the first ever multiparty elections to be held in our country, since independence.
But there were also other significant features associated with those elections, including the following:-
(i) my re-election as MP for Ukerewe, plus re-election as Speaker of the National Assembly.
(ii) the “change of guard” at State House, involving President Mwinyi’s exit, and President Mkapa’s entry.
(iii) the inauguration of the first ever multi-party Parliament.
And (iv) the transfer of Parliament to Dodoma. The change of guard at State House Because these were the first ever multi-party elections to be held since the country’s independence, they had their own special attractions. In the Presidential election, four political parties actively participated.
They were: CCM; which fielded Benjamin William Mkapa; NCCRMAGEUZI, which fielded Agustino Lyatonga Mrema; CUF, which fielded Professor Ibrahim Lipumba; and UDP, which fielded John Momose Cheyo.
The results were that Benjamin Mkapa of CCM scored 61.8 percent of the total valid votes cast; Followed by Agustino Lyatonga Mrema of NCCR-MAGEUZI, who scored 27.8 percent; Followed by Professor Ibrahim Lipumba of CUF, who scored 6.4 percent; and John Cheyo of UDP, who scored 4.0 percent.
And in the Parliamentary elections, ALL the 13 fully registered political parties participated, in 232 constituencies. The results were that: CCM won in 186 constituencies (including my constituency of Ukerewe).
That was a handsome 80.2 percent; Followed by CUF, which won in 24 constituencies (all of them in Zanzibar); Which amounted to 10.3 percent; Followed by CHADEMA, which won in 3 constituencies, amounting to 1.3 percent; and finally by UDP, which likewise won in 3 constituencies, also amounting to 1.3 percent.
The ‘change of guard’ at State House
Because President Mwinyi was completing his constitutional final term in office; The 1995 Presidential election brought into State House a new CCM President, Benjamin William Mkapa, who came in with his trade mark philosophy of “Uwazi na Ukweli” (Transparency and Truth); Thereby promising to operate a fully transparent government; A promise which he quickly fulfilled by introducing monthly live addresses to the nation from State House, for the purpose of ensuring that the people were constantly informed of what the Government was doing, and why.
He also established in his office, a ‘Directorate of Presidential Communications’; and directed that a senior official be designated in each Government Ministry, whose main responsibility would be to regularly inform the public through the mass media, of what the Ministry was doing.
He explained these actions by saying that “in a democratic society, the people have the right to be informed on all issues that are of concern to them, and that is the mandatory duty of the Government”, he said. Presumably for the same purpose, he also instituted a system of annual Presidential addresses to Parliament, which were well received, and highly appreciated, by the MPS.
Other significant features
The other significant features of the I995 elections included the major reforms which were introduced by the Ruling Party CCM, in its Rules for the nomination of its election candidates, both for the Presidential and the Parliamentary elections, and the Local Authority elections.
In my other capacity as member of the CCM National Executive Committee, I participated in the making of these new rules.
With regard to Presidential elections, whereas under the previous mono-party system, the CCM National Congress was always presented with only one candidate recommended by the National Executive Committee, for it to accept, or to reject; but now, with the advent of multi-party politics, CCM wisely decided to introduce a new set of rules, which made provision for effective competition between Presidential aspirants; Whereby, any CCM member who wants to enter the race for the Presidency was allowed to do so, by just completing the relevant application forms.
Thus, under these new Rules, a total of eleven candidates offered themselves for consideration in the 1995 Presidential election. And for the parliamentary elections, whereas previously, the ‘primary nomination’ exercise was done only at the District level by the District Delegates Conference, this exercise was now brought down to the lower Ward level, to be undertaken by the Ward Delegates conferences.
This had the additional advantage of involving a much larger number of participants in the nomination process for the CCM parliamentary candidates.
The dissolution of the last ‘single-party’ Parliament Although the dissolution of Parliament is a normal exercise which is customarily performed by the President at the end of the five-year term of every Parliament; the dissolution of this last ‘single party’ Parliament was going to be a ‘one-off’ event, deserving special attention.
So, I decided to take that opportunity to make two operational decisions of a historic nature. One was the complete transfer of Parliament to Dodoma. Whereas Parliament had indeed partially moved to Dodoma by holding its short-period (ten day) sessions there in the CCM Assembly Hall; All the long Budget sessions were still being held in Karimjee Hall, Dar es Salaam.
The decision which I announced was that “beginning with the first meeting of the new Parliament after the general elections in October, ALL Parliamentary sessions (including the Budget sessions), would be held in Dodoma.
The second decision that was that “starting with the same meeting, the Parliamentary sessions will no longer be held in the CCM Assembly Hall”; and explained that this was because I deemed it wholly inappropriate for the forthcoming multi-party Parliament to be holding its sessions in the CCM Assembly Hall.
It was therefore necessary to move to a different facility which belongs to the Government. The practical effect of these decisions was to transfer Parliament permanently out of Dar es Salaam to Dodoma; and also to move it out of the Dodoma CCM Assembly Hall.
Preparations for the first multi-party Parliament Since this was also going to be the first ever multi-party Parliament to operate in our country since independence; and I was going to be the Speaker privileged to preside over this transition; I felt it was a great personal honour and privilege.
I therefore made preparations that would adequately reflect this special significance of this particular event; in my desire to ensure that the incoming multi-party Parliament would satisfy the curiosity of the multi-party democracy stakeholders; plus the vague expectations of the 80 percent of Tanzanians who had rejected the idea of abandoning the single-party system, as per the Nyalali Commission Report.
The main preparations concentrated on reforming the Standing Orders (the Rules of procedure) of the National Assembly.
For that purpose, I spent much time studying the Standing Orders of the British House of Commons (upon which the Rules of procedure of most of the Commonwealth Parliaments are based); and those of the Indian Lower House of Parliament, the Lokh Sabha; To see if there were any Rules that we could usefully adopt, or modify, to suit our particular circumstances.
I had no desire of just “copying and pasting” things! As a result of this study, our Standing Orders Committee was able to design a number of completely new Rules that had not been experienced before in our single-party National Assembly.
These included Rules that made provision for:-
(i) the position of Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Cabinet, the Opposition Chief Whip, and the Official Opposition spokespersons.
(ii) Rules which specifically guaranteed both space and time, for the intervention of all of these Opposition leaders in the proceedings of the House.
For example, that immediately after a Government motion has been moved for debate in the House, the Speaker must call on the relevant Opposition spokesman to present the views of the Opposition side, before opening it for general debate by the other MPs.
(iii) New rules were also made for new sitting arrangements inside Parliament; which allocated the Government Ministers and the MPs of the Ruling party, on the right hand of the Speaker’s Chair; and the Opposition legislators on the left hand side.
(I must admit though, that I merely ‘copied and pasted” this Rule from the British House of Commons, as I am personally unable to explain the logic for this arrangement; Other than that it originates from ancient British Parliamentary history).
The initial multi-party challenges After having settled properly in our new multi- Party political environment, and Parliament having commenced its normal business; the multi-party challenges quickly started emerging. It had been generally expected that the management of the new multi-party Parliament would probably present some challenges.
And indeed, that is exactly what happened. The multi-party elections had brought into Parliament several very knowledgeable and robust Opposition politicians, such as the seasoned advocates; Mabere Marando and Masumbuko Lamwai; Plus veteran politicians like Steven Wassira, Paul Ndobho, and John Cheyo; Who were also quite adept and skillful in the art of challenging the Speaker without rancor or ill will; and had the ability to frame their arguments in a manner that made such arguments extremely difficult to counter.
That was the new crop of legislators that I now had to deal with. And they were very fast in showing their prowess; Actually right on the first sitting day of the new Parliament; When I was in the process of administering the oath of allegiance to the new members.
After two members had taken the oath, apparently Opposition legislator advocate Mabere Marando was listening carefully to the wording of this oath, and had detected certain words therein, that he considered unacceptable.
Thus, he rose in his place “on a point of order”, as provided for in the Rules of the House, and was allowed to sp eak. He raised objection to the words in that oath which read as follows: “I swear true allegiance to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania”.
He argued that “It is improper and unrealistic, and even dishonest, for members of the Opposition to swear allegiance to the CCM government, due to the fact that the Opposition parties’ basic mission in this Parliament, is actually to work towards its downfall, either through defeat on a motion of no confidence moved in this House, or at the next or subsequent general election, so that we can take its place.
In such circumstances, how can we honestly swear allegiance to the government which we are fighting to remove from power?”. In my considered opinion, the proper and honest thing for us to do, is to swear allegiance to our motherland, the United Republic of Tanzania, and not to the government, which we are actively seeking to remove from office.
Mr Speaker, I ask for your guidance and ruling on this matter, before we proceed any further”. I was impressed and persuaded by his argument. I therefore ruled in his favour; and directed the Clerk of The National Assembly, George Mlawa, to delete the words “the Government of” from the text of the oath.
The amended sentence in the text of the oath of allegiance now read as follows: “ I swear true allegiance to the United Republic of Tanzania”. That resolved the matter, and enabled the proceedings to continue. The two members who had already taken the expunged oath were directed to take the amended, correct oath of allegiance to their motherland. (Will be continued next week).