Low voter turnout not a good trend

Low voter turnout not a good trend

Tanzania is among the many countries that have decided to embrace democracy, which is enshrined in the constitution -- and which has been widely practiced on the way to independence and after independence. And even when the country had adopted the one-party system from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, democracy was very much in practice in which the electorate could choose between two candidates from the same party.

It worked out well under the circumstances - then. The euphoria and excitement that welcomed the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1992, just in time for the 1995 general elections – proved the people’s desire for change – again due to the prevailing circumstances – now. It started with a bang with massive voter registrations and eventual turnout on polling day.

It all augured well for the prosperity of multi-party democracy in Tanzania. Yet events showed later, it seemed that the euphoria and excitement that had greeted the return to multi-party democracy, the so-called political pluralism, does not match with registration and actual turnout on polling day. There is evidence to prove this point.

The turnout at the consequent polls in 2000, 2005 and 2010 did not match with the number of people who had registered to vote. It was evident that some of those who registered to vote did not turn out to vote. This included the by-elections. This was a matter of national concern which prompted the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to think about initiating a special study to establish the cause.

The latest low voter turnout scenario also affected the recent parliamentary by-election in Arumeru East, which has left the electoral commission reeling. Of the 127,450 voters registered, only 60,696 cared to turn out at the polling stations. This is not a healthy trend at all and NEC should start worrying. It must get the answers now and look for remedial measures before the next general elections.

Such measures must start now. Ideally, they should include a countrywide education and publicity campaign aimed at sensitizing the people on the importance of taking part in elections. It will be for the good of us all.

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Author: EDITOR

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