Tanzania rejects calls for election commission reform

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Tanzania’s President-elect John Pombe Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party’s sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015. Tanzania’s ruling party candidate, John Magufuli, was declared the winner on Thursday of a presidential election after the national electoral body dismissed opposition complaints about the process and a demand for a recount. The election has been the most hotly contested race in the more than half a century of rule by the Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party, which fielded Magufuli, 56, a minister for public works. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman

Tanzania’s government on Thursday rejected opposition calls for a reform of the election commission, ahead of general elections later this year.

The main opposition party Chadema say the commission is not independent and serves the interests of the ruling CCM party of President John Magufuli.

The US embassy has made similar calls for an independent election commission.

But Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa dismissed the concerns.

“The commission was set up in accordance with the constitution which enshrines its independence,” Majaliwa said in a statement Thursday.

“The commission is independent and does not suffer from any interference in its functioning — neither from the president nor from any political party.”

On Monday, Freeman Mbowe, chair of Chadema, said the commission was not independent — because the president can appoint and revoke its leadership — and accused the government of ruling the country “by force”.

The commission is especially important because, under Tanzania’s constitution, once the commission has declared the results of the presidential election, they cannot then be challenged in court.

Magufuli came to power in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people” but has since been criticised for his authoritarian leadership.

Nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, his administration has shut down newspapers, switched off live broadcasts of parliament and used far-reaching cybercrime laws to jail critics.

He is due to run for a second term in polls due in October.

The Guardian

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