The eligible and ineligible persons in the update of the Voters’ Register

TANZANIA: “EVERY citizen of the United Republic of Tanzania who has attained the age of eighteen years is entitled to vote in any election held in Tanzania” reads article 5(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977.

This constitutional requirement cannot be fulfilled if procedures, criteria and conditions set to enable Tanzanian citizens with the qualification in question are not implemented.

For example, article 74(6)(a) and (d) states that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the role of supervising and coordinating the registration of voters in Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the United Republic and Councillors election in the Tanzania Mainland.

The role is also found in section 16(5) of The Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillors Elections Act No. 1 of 2024 which reads “for the purpose of this section, the Commission shall update the Register twice between the period commencing immediately after the General Elections and the date preceding the nomination day”.

Already the INEC has started preparations towards the update of the Permanent National Voters’ Register (PNVR), whereby several activities have been done, including nine (9) stakeholders’ meetings at national level held in Dar es Salaam from 07th through 15th June, 2024 and one stakeholders meeting held in Kigoma Region on 19th June, 2024.

According to the election management authority, similar meetings are in order throughout the country in accordance with the schedule for the update of the Register.

The stakeholders in question include Political Party Leaders, Religious Leaders, Representatives of Civil Society Organisations, Editors, Journalists, Regional and District Information Officers, representatives of various groups of Youths, People with disabilities, Women and Traditional Elders.

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It must be remembered that on 15th May, 2024 the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Court of Appel Judge Jacobs Mwambegele addressed members of press in Unguja, Zanzibar over the launch of the update of the Register which by then was supposed to kickstart on 1st July, 2024.

However, during stakeholders’ meetings, the Electoral Management Body received several recommendations and opinions which led to the change of the date announced earlier to begin the update exercise which is pivotal for the future of democracy in our country.

Speaking to reporters in Kigoma Region on 22nd June, 2024, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Court of Appeal Judge Jacobs Mwambegele said the update of the register would now be launched on 20 July, 2024 in Kigoma Region.

Justice Mwambegele said the INEC decision has resulted from honouring and considering the culture of stakeholders engagement that INEC has been implementing in the update of the register and all other electoral processes.

“The Commission has considered opinions and advice from stakeholders. Thus, the update of the Permanent National Voters’ Register will start from 20th to 26th July, 2024 instead of 01st to 07th July, 2024, in Kigoma region and the launch will take place on the very day (20 July, 2024) where the Chief Guest is expected to be the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr Kassim Majaliwa Majaliwa (MP),” Justice Mwambegele said.

Speaking of some of the opinions of stakeholders that convinced the election management authority to change the launch date, the Chairman of the Commission said institutions and organisations that applied for the provision of voter’s education during the update process, explained that when permission is granted by the Commission, it is a short time until the update exercise commences.

Thus, they advised the electoral management body to find a way to grant permission for a period of time that will enable them to get funds from donors so that when the exercise starts, they can start providing voter’s education in time.

He added that institutions and organisations that applied for observation during the exercise of PNVR’s update, explained that when the permission is given by the election management authority, it is a short time until the update exercise begins.

Thus, they advised the Commission to find a way to grant permission for a period of time so that they can start the work of observing how the exercise is conducted.

“In their opinions and advices, political parties asked to be given enough time to find registration agents so that the agents can fully participate in the exercise. In addition, the parties advised the Commission to move forward the date of starting the PNVR’s update exercise in a bid to provide an opportunity for them to persuade citizens and supporters to come forth and take part in the exercise,” said Justice Mwambegele.

He explained that stakeholders also advised the Commission to get enough time to provide voter education to stakeholders and citizens before the start of the exercise itself, so that many citizens can understand the relevancy of the update of the Register and thus enable them to come out in large numbers when the exercise commences.

It should be noted that this engagement of election stakeholders is not a legal or constitutional matter, but as the Chairman of the Commission said, it is a culture that the electoral management body has set for itself and at this point it is clear that the election stakeholders have been heard perhaps due to their good intention aimed at making the exercise have positive results.

At this point, it is the responsibility of every stakeholder to use the opportunity of this extension to put things in order and be well organised in inspiring citizens who have the criteria to come out in bigger numbers to register and update their information in the PNVR.

The Director of Election of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr. Ramadhan Kailima says putting into consideration section 9(1) and (2) of the Presidential, Parliamentary and Councilors Elections Act No. 1 of 2024 read together with other sections pertaining to voters’ registration and update of the Register, the update exercise will involve several things, including registering new voters who are Tanzanian citizens aged 18 and above and who will reach that age by the date of the 2025’s general election.

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The exercise will also be about giving opportunities to voters who are on the register and who have moved from one election area to another, to be able to transfer their information from the ward or constituency they were previously registered in and to give opportunities to registered voters to correct their particulars including names and other information.

Mr. Kailima added that the exercise will involve issuing new cards to voters who have lost their cards or their cards are damaged and removing from the Register voters who have lost qualifications due to various reasons, including repudiating Tanzanian citizenship or death.

“On the part of Zanzibar, the update of the Register will concern anyone in Zanzibar who does not have the qualifications to be registered with the Electoral Commission of Zanzibar but has the qualifications to elect the President of the United Republic. For that reason, such a voter will only be allowed to cast one vote to elect the President of the United Republic,” said Mr. Kailima.

He explained that in accordance with the provisions of section 10 of the Presidential, Parliamentary and Councilors Elections Act No. 1 of 2024, those who are not qualified to be enrolled include people who are under the oath of allegiance of other countries other than Tanzania and a person who has been certified by a doctor to be insane.

He said other persons who do not have qualifications include the one who is detained as a criminal with mental illness, has been detained with the consent of the President, has been convicted of an offense whose punishment is death and who is serving a prison sentence for an offense whose punishment exceeds six months prescribed by the court.

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