The Tanzanian elections

This last Sunday (October 31st) the Tanzanians voted. Arusha had to elect one parliamentary representative and then the whole country also voted in the presidential election. Before the election Kikwete was president. Kikwete is from the CCM party, and this is so to speak the ruling party. In this election, however, Chadema, the opposition party, managed to get a majority of the parliamentary seats (including the seat from Arusha). This doesn’t change much though, since Kikwete is almost certain to rule for one more period. The president has a lot of say here, and if he doesn’t like the propositions of the parliament (which he surely will not, since the parliament will be full of Chadema representatives) he can refuse to sign them. And if he gets really unhappy with the situation he can just dissolve the parliament and create his own parliament out of CCM members, an action which would totally overrule the result of the democratic elections just held. Seems weird that a president elected only by the 30 % of eligible voters (yes, only 30 % voted in this election) can have so much power in a supposedly “democratic” state. Speaking of democracy, the day after the elections was a bit messy here i Arusha. Not too violent or anything, but there were some issues at the municipality building here. Inside the building they were keeping the voting ballots, and people were saying the ruling party, CCM, was trying to rig the election, so people were demonstrating outside the building, putting pressure on those inside to announce the results. And after the results were announced, the former representative from Arusha (a woman from CCM) had to sign some papers to pass power to the next representative, which she refused to do, so there were some problems regarding that as well. So, a lot of people stayed inside the whole weekend, to avoid all the traffic jams and possible violence in the city. Mostly people were celebrating that the opposition had won, though, so there weren’t any major disturbances. In general Tanzania is a very peaceful country. They have hundreds of tribes, but one major language, which I think helps. All tribes have their own tribal language, but swahili is the language that connects them all – so they have at least one thing that unites them.

When talking about the political system here you might wonder how the people here can just accept something like that going on (the rigging of elections, the president’s power to overrule the results). People here seem really accepting of almost anything. Apparently there were people trying to vote who found themselves marked as dead on the lists of people eligible to vote, and others couldn’t find their names at all on any of the lists. Just those things would be enough to set people off in my country, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.  One theory for this acceptance, or lack of reaction rather, that I’ve heard is that because of the communist system they used to have here people were not taught how to think for themselves, they were not taught to question the social situation. This actually seems like a logical explanation, but I’m sure this is only partly true, and it seems a bit exaggerated. Funny thing is, a lot of people here seem to have liked the previous (socialist) system. At least then everyone was guaranteed work, education etc. I’m not going to comment any further on this issue, it’s up to everyone to form their own opinions on this matter.

I think the lives they lead here also make the Tanzanians more acceptant of bad things happening than we would be. Here, for example (and unfortunately), deaths are quite common. My favorite taxi driver here is an orphan. Well, he’s an adult now, but it’s been many years already since both of his parents died (his mother died from kidney problems I think, and his father from AIDS). I also have a friend working here at the tribunal whose both parents died of AIDS when she was young. Luckily enough family is very important in this country, so if something like that happens, there’s almost always someone in your family who will make sure you’re taken care of. But compared to tragedies like that political issues do not seem so important. I think it should work the other way around, however. I think that just because of the lack of knowledge of AIDS, the lack of free health care for everyone etc. politics should be a priority. Only then could you start preventing tragedies like that from happening. It doesn’t work like this however, and according to one of my friends here people have just given up. They don’t care anymore. If they would care they would go crazy, because there’s nothing they can do about it. To me this certainly seems like an impossible thought, living like this.

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~ by Nina on November 4, 2010.

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