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On human flourishing: Why should eligible citizens vote?

THE long awaited day is around the corner. It is just one week away. This is the day when Tanzanians shall gather at the polling stations and they will do so because it is their constitutional right.

In fact, voting shall remain the foundational concept for our entire democratic structure, at home and beyond.

It is uplifting to be assured by the electoral commission that beyond performing this constitutional responsibility of registering voters, supervising the conduct of the elections, reviewing and demarcating the electoral boundaries, it has already made other important considerations of cost, time and logistics.

This is good news indeed. Their vision to keep with our tradition of a fair and expansive democracy is important and should be adhered to. So, well done the electoral commission! Keep moving and finish well. But why should each registered Tanzanian voter bother about voting?

Why disturb yourself while it takes time and effort to vote, and in some times and places, a lot of time and effort, why do people do it? This is my reflection for today. Well, to begin with voting is possibly the single most important act of democracy, and as we all know competitive and just elections are fundamental to any functioning democracy.

I know some citizens often fail to vote or pay close attention to politics, but people know the leaders they would like to vote for as their mouthpiece or representatives.

No wonder why the numbers we saw during campaign rallies not only become big, but the massive gatherings remind each one of us that citizens can and will mobilise when it matters for a common cause.

This said however, it is unfortunate that some people do not know that voting is also an ethical issue. Some do not know that when they vote, they can make the government better or worse.

In turn, their votes can make people’s lives better or worse. This can be a challenge. I wish all people knew that if they make bad choices at the polls, they will get unfit choices and thereafter bad laws passed by incompetent representatives.

I wish they knew that with the same poor choices, so also economic opportunities will vanish or fail to materialise. And on a serious note, we have seen in some parts of the continent, where due to not voting properly, they simply fight unjust and unnecessary wars. We do not want this to happen in our country.

Gladly so, there are many voting-eligible citizens who bother about voting because they know well that voting is morally significant. They know, for example, that voting changes the quality, scope, and kind of government and that the way they shall vote can help or harm people.

They too know well that electoral outcomes can be harmful or beneficial, just or unjust. It is good that a good number of wananchi falls in this particular category.

So Tanzanians will go to the polling stations next week in order to participate in election, a one way of accomplishing a critical task that is faced in all democratic countries, their organisations and institutions, that is to say how to select the people who will make decisions that are binding on everyone.

I trust that they will do it diligently as they seek to show that their votes will contribute to answering the fundamental question of democracy - that on the interconnectedness of electoral results and the future of our public policy and this great nation.

Although scientific research across the globe tells us that the longstanding problem of, in some cases, ignorant, irrational, and systematically in error in their political beliefs, and that these many voters could violate the standards of rightful voting, but in my view, wananchi will not confuse two distinct issues, the right to vote and the rightness of voting.

In a more similar note, the fact that Tanzanians will faithfully vote, also will reflect the presence of important morally- infused motivation among wananchi as they seek to build their nation.

I hope the vitality of popular participation in elections which we saw during campaigns will symbolise and depend in significant ways on the way our peaceful country has nurtured, among its citizens, civic identities and moral sentiments.

Likewise, I would also add to my advice to voters and say each mwananchi has a civic duty to vote. I know there are those who, even though eligible, but in one way or the other, circumstances will excuse them from voting.

But for those with no hiccups, they should vote, and vote with good intention because in general any good faith vote is morally acceptable. In fact, at the very least, I want to tell fellow citizens two things, one is that it is better to vote than to abstain, secondly it is inherently wrong to buy or sell one’s vote.

Finally let me remind voters that gone are the days when other people, and probably still are, people who say citizens typically have no duty to vote. This is wrong. What I would strongly encourage people to know is that if citizens do vote, they must vote well, on the basis of sound evidence for what is likely to promote the common good.

Likewise, gone are the days of vote buying, selling, and trading. These are morally wrong for they, in most situations, violate the duties we earlier on discussed.

I insist, when vote buying, selling, and trading are wrong, what makes them wrong is that they lead to violations of the citizens civic duties. So let me wish all votingeligible citizens to turn out and be systematically representative of the eligible population.

My sincere counsel comes a week also before elections because it is well known that low and sometimes unequal turnout has always been a serious problem for democracy globally, because election results fail to reflect the preferences of the citizenry.

This I have to insist even though low turnout has been hard enough to combat. For fellow citizens who have chosen to be nonvoters please give voters - fellow citizens’ time and space so that they attend to their civic obligation. Good luck to all Tanzanians.


● Dr Alfred Sebahene, PhD Social Ethics Specialist and Anti-Corruption Consultant St John’s University of Tanzania Dodoma, Tanzania Email Addresses: arsebahene2@ yahoo.co.uk, alfredsebahene@gmail.com Mobile: 0767 233 997

LAST week, following the inauguration of the newlyelected ...

Author: Dr Alfred Sebahene

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