Proportional Representation Electoral System, solution to our by-elections

Proportional Representation Electoral System, solution to our by-elections


The death of Jerimia Sumari the former Parliamentarian of Arumeru has created an opportunity for the political parties to once again stretch their muscles to this constituency formerly occupied by Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). Our memories are still fresh with the Igunga by-election that was strongly contested by Chadema and CCM and eventually went back to CCM but at a very high cost. 

We heard stories of people being ferried from as far as Tarime on the guise of guarding votes from being manipulated.  That was the Chadema’s story yet the CCM had its own makeshift regiment that was also supposed to do the same job.  That by self was enough reason to heighten the imminent hostility of the two political parties.

The hijab story went even further sending wrong message of religious bigotry.  Sensitive as it was, the nation was forced to hold its breath praying that it could not escalate into religious acrimony. It was however defused by delay tactics when the case was thrown to the court of law that works on its own time, making it still pending to date.  But it is on record that one person lost his life in this by-election.

Tanzania has been known to be an island of peace and harmony in this region and is required to continue to be so.  However it should be remembered that peace is always a byproduct of justice, therefore all the key players should be advised to stick to the rules of the game.

Money wise, by-elections are expensive as the government is duty-bound to finance the process through the Electoral Commission.  Other expenses such as mobilization of security organs  which are always visible in such elections, and the money spent by the contesting parties, hiring choppers and several other devises for electoral campaigns; all these need money!

If we go by prophesy of Sheikh Yahaya Junior (son) which he made early this year, we should expect more deaths of members of parliament and by-elections! Are we ready for these by-elections?  We have no choice; whether we are ready or not, by-elections should be carried on to fill the seats, likewise we should get ready for any eventuality.

For a good number of years, we were able to carefully and intelligently nurse this political anathema much to the admiration of our neighbors who had already their shares in political turmoil. We were able in the past to build a cohesive nation by deliberately defending the barriers of tribal, religious and racist’s overtures. But of late, they are resurfacing in the so called democratic dispensation.

We are now seeing the intricacies of such by-elections and the general feelings of our people have on these kinds of elections where the winner takes it all, even though by stealing.  Should we allow such a situation to continue at our own peril?
Fortunately we are in the process of writing a new Constitution.  Could this be taken as one of our constitutional problems that we need to address?

Why can’t we then think of proportional representation for our Parliament?  Proportional representation is the solution to our predicament. The Igunga and Arumeru by-elections wouldn’t have been there because it is a question of taking the next in line within the Party list for replacement.

Countries like Namibia have opted for two electoral systems, PRE system for the National Assembly elections and the First-Past-The Post (FPTP) for their Presidential elections which are the dominant electoral systems in southern Africa.   It was important for them to choose these systems to avoid being embroiled on tribal entangle if they were to go in our Parliamentary system.

The proportional representation electoral system balances the political party’s share of national valid votes cast and concomitant share of its legislatives seats.   This means that each party’s political track record in terms of national votes must be reflected in the composition of a Parliament.  Researchers of electoral systems contend that many new democracies particularly those that face deep divisions, the inclusion of all significant groups in Parliament can be an important condition for democratic consolidation.

Outcomes based on consensus-building and power-sharing usually include PRE systems. The PRE systems impacts on the participation, arguably especially that of women and other marginalized groups, with evidence showing that countries using the PRE systems have more women in Parliament and local government structures than  other electoral systems.

Namibia has retained the PRE electoral system as this system played a key role in the resolution of the country’s protracted violent conflict during the liberation struggle. This is an opinion-based on electoral system in which the whole country is taken to form a constituency with no constituency delimitation required. After twenty years of experience, there are some political noises demanding to revert into constituency representation like Tanzania.  They should better be advised to remain with PRE.

Their constituency representations are through the local governments from every region assembling in a lower house known as the National Council. The Council is supposed to debate and review Parliamentary decisions for onward submission to the President for assenting.  This is for checks and balances to avoid erroneous endorsing the Bills necessitating for immediate amendments of the Acts. 

There are many PRE systems, but the most commonly used one is the party list system.  Generally it ensures that all political parties contesting elections receive representation in Parliament in relative proportion to the total valid votes. It allows for greater inclusion of smaller parties in the legislature and is more inclusive of socially diverse list of candidates.  It restricts regional fiefdoms leading to power sharing and coalition government. 
jnyoka@live.com  +255754342711 Senior Citizen.                                    

Author: Kiangiosekazi Wa-Nyoka

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