Prerequisite to vie for ward councillor

TANZANIA just like other democratic countries in the world, follow the governing system that is people centered, that is to say, leaders at various levels are elected by citizens to lead them in ensuring that all the critical political, social and economic challenges are tackled accordingly.

Elections in the governing system can be used to fill vacant positions of leadership at local government and central government levels. In the Tanzanian context, elections, especially in filling the vacant posts of public leaders at Councillors, Members of Parliament and Presidential levels are coordinated, supervised and conducted by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

In ensuring that there is a level playing field to all the candidates and political parties taking place in a particular election, the Electoral Body makes sure that the entire process, starting with the nomination stage, campaigning up to the election stage is thoroughly coordinated and supervised in accordance with the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, Election Laws, Regulations and the Commission directives.

In the electoral process, NEC ensures that all the legal matters are adhered to, including the involvement of all election stakeholders through meetings and dialogues as well as inviting them to participate in the entire process, for example, Section 4C of the National Elections Act, Cap. 343 has given room to some stakeholders to participate in voter’s education under the coordination and supervision of the Commission.

The involvement of stakeholders to a large extent is aimed at assuring transparency, efficiency and fairness.

Recently, the Commission announced by-elections in 14 wards of Tanzania Mainland, according to the timetable issued by the Commission and signed by the Director of Elections of the National Electoral Commission, Mr. Ramadhani Kailima, candidates will collect their nomination forms from 24th to 30th June, 2023 and nomination will be on 30th June, 2023. Campaigns are slated for 01st to 12th July, 2023 and elections will be conducted on 13th July, 2023.

Commenting on the Electoral Body’s decision to announce the by-elections in question, Mr. Kailima said prior to announcement, the Commission received a letter from the Minister responsible with the Local Government Authorities, informing the Commission on the vacant positions in 14 wards of Tanzania Mainland.

The Minister’s letter to the Commission was written in accordance with Section 13(1) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act. Cap 292 which states that the Minister will be required to inform the Commission that there is a vacant post or posts of Councillors after being informed by the Chairperson of the Council.

The Section also elaborates that reasons for vacancies include deaths and any other legal reasons that nullifies the leadership of a Councillor.

The law also requires that the Commission issues a notice informing the public over a vacant post after receiving a letter from the Minister. The Commission’s notice is issued according to Section 13(3) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act. Cap 292 which requires the Electoral Body to conduct Councillors by-election at least twice in a year.

Wards in which elections are due include Ngoywa located in Sikonge District Concil, Kalola in Uyui District Council, Sindeni in Handeni District Council, Potwe in Muheza District Council, Kwashemshi in Korogwe District Council, Bosha in Mkinga District Council, Mahege in Kibiti District Council and Bunamhala in Bariadi Town Council.

Others include, Njoro and Kalemawe in Same District Council, Mnavira in Masasi District Council, Kinyika in Makete District Council, Magubike in Kilosa District Council and Mbede in Mpimbwe District Council.

As citizens in those areas are getting prepared to use their Constitutional right to vie for those posts, it is important to know the criteria to contest for the posts, which requires the candidate to be a citizen of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has attained the age of 21 and above, a member of a political party who has been endorsed by his/her political party, who is fluent in either Swahili or English, an ordinary resident of the respective area and has not been convicted by any court of law for evading government tax.

At the nomination stage, the Electoral Body in the slated day will nominate candidates who have been endorsed by their respective political parties and candidates will be required to submit their forms to the Commission office before the specified deadline.

To avoid errors that may repudiate a person wishing to run for the post a chance of being nominated, the Commission allows such a person to present his or her forms to the Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officer three days before nomination day for inspection to see if all the legal requirement have been observed.

At this time of by-election, it is important to emphasize on the prerequisite to be observed for a person to be nominated as a candidate in a respective ward.

According to regulation 25(4) of the Local Authorities (Councillors’ Elections) Regulations of 2020, the Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officer has the responsibility of nominating a person who has thoroughly filled form No. 8C of nomination and form No. 10 of election code of ethics.

Form No. 8C must be filled in capital letters but only one name will be written in capital letter in a ballot paper, therefore, a candidate is required to write first a name that he/she wants to appear in capital letters in the ballot paper.

It should be remembered that, some candidates have in many cases attempted to raise objection over fellow candidates in the guise of names not following a particular order, this according to law is not a fault and does not eliminate a candidate.

In a nomination form, guarantors’ names must be filled in a chart and be submitted to the Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officer with four coloured passport size photos. The form must be submitted together with form No. 10 in which a candidate declares to respect and adhere to election code of ethics.

A complete nomination form must be accompanied with the evidence of an endorsement from a political party, guarantors’ statement, candidates’ statement and the Returning Officer’s or Assistant Returning Officer’s endorsement. The candidate is also required to post a bond of five thousand (5,000/-).

Section 44(3) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act. Cap. 292 states that an objection to the candidate vying for the post of a Councillor may be made by another candidate in the ward or the Register of Political Parties or Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officer of his own motion and is made in writing, signed by the objector with clear reasons for objection through Form No. 9C.  The objection is heard and decided by the Assistant Returning Officer.

After having received the objection and deciding on it, the Assistant Returning Officer must inform the Returning Officer over the ruling in a bid to crosscheck and see if the legal requirements were observed or not. Returning Officer can reverse the decision made by Assistant Returning Officer if deemed that the legal requirements were not observed.

Section 44(5) of the Local Authorities (Councillors) Act. Cap 292, allows candidates to appeal to National Electoral Commission against the Returning Officer’s decision. The Electoral Body receives and decide on the appeals, the decision is final and conclusive, and cannot be challenged in any court of law. However, if a candidate feels offended and is not satisfied he/she can go to court after the election has been conducted and the winner declared.

The Writer of this article is the Senior Information Officer at the National Electoral Commission.

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