Elections … alternative elections
First President of Tanganyika and later Tanzania, the Late Julius K. Nyerere, also famously known as the Founding Father of the Nation.
Left: Second Phase Government President – Ally Hassan Mwinyi
Centre: Fourth (current) Phase Government President – Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
Right: Third Phase Government President – Benjamin William Mkapa.
Thinking aloud about alternative election system compared to the current system
General elections in Tanzania are just a month and three weeks away. Several political parties have already launched their campaigns. This time round Tanzanians are listening to politicies and election manifestos of these parties. Campaigns are hot … and are getting hotter. It is difficult at this time NOT to think about politics … however hard one may try to do so. You keep being hit by political news right, centre and left.
It is for this reason for some time now I have been thinking on how we can possibly design another way of holding elections under a multi-party system.
Here is my crude idea. It is still in it’s crude form and may be political scientists will help refine it.
Under current arrangements/system of holding elections under a multipartysystem, all parties that are in a position to put up contestants for the different positions being vied for may do so. That is, they can stand some of their members to constest for the presidential post, parliamentary seat as well as the ward councilorship seat. This happens during elections in and elections out.
May be we need to slightly alter this aspect. A ruling political party should not put up a contestant for the presidential post during the elections that follow, that is, elections that will be held while this political party is in power. Such a party may stand up contestants in other elected posts other than that of the president.
My proposition results from a very simple outlook. When a certain president is in power, there is always a group of people that indirectly benefits from his being in that position – it doesn’t matter whether the president is aware or not aware – this is the so called Status Quo. It also doesn’t matter whether that group benefits through legal or illegal means. I will concentrate on the illegal means.
Just imagine a certain director in a parastatal organisation. Such a person, by using his/her office, may have established an illegal channel that brings him or her a lot of money. This person would not want the president, who has the powers to keep him or remove him from that position, to be changed. He would want the president or his/her party to continue remaining in power so that he/she too would continue benefiting from his/her position without interference.
Now, you may multiply that scenario into thousands of key offices in the country. And under these people, you will find that there may be other junior officials also benefiting from the system – the status quo. As a result, you will have a very strong social group that doesn’t want the president or his/her party to be changed, especially, through the ballot. Elections may be held again and again and they will not bring the desired change NOT because the people do not want change BUT simply because there is no WILL to change on the side of this strong social group that services the government.
So, if you think of the fact that in the succeeding election the ruling party would be complied by law NOT to put up a contestant for the presidential post … meaning that the ruling party will not be the ruling party in the next five years or ten and that it would be completely another party in power … discipline and accountability would improve drastically. Discipline would improve because different people holding different offices would not dare misuse their offices knowing for sure that the next government, which will be completely different, could take them to task for their misdoings.
Above all, there have been complaints in different countries, particularly in Africa, that people running for the presidential post while still holding that same post have the advantage of using state property paid by people’s taxes to help them get re-elected.
Furthermore, this alteranative election system will ensure circulation of power in more parties. Parties will compete in the quality of what they deliver to the people in real life rather than mere beautiful manifestos and policies that are not implemented to the letter – since it is one thing to promise and another to implement your promise.
In my opinion the current election designs give lots of advantages to the ruling party – this is especially so in Africa – rather than other parties. I understand that there are a number of examples from Africa whereby casting of the ballot did bring about change of regime: Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, for instance. These countries, if put to scrutiny, would be found to have very different historical backgrounds or circumstances that made such a change possible – and whereby such a change may never be possible even in these same countries in the forseeable future.
So, in my opinion it is time we change how and who participates in elections during election times. My 50 cent contribution.