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Samia: Process to Build Multi-party Democracy in Tanzania Far From Over 

In a moving article, the Head of State explains why she thinks the ongoing process to improve multi-party democracy in Tanzania is an urgent task.

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Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan has said that she wishes to build a better Tanzania characterized by “reconciliation and understanding” among the people of the East African nation, pointing out that the process to build a well-functioning multi-party democracy is “far from over.”

The Head of State made the comments in a moving newspaper article published today, July 1, 2022, in the government-owned paper Daily News. Samia penned the op-ed in commemoration of multiparty democracy in Tanzania, a system re-introduced in the country thirty years ago, in 1992.

Only 20 per cent of Tanzanians who gave their opinions to the Nyalali Commission, set up to collect the views of citizens on whether Tanzania should adopt a multiparty or single-party system, approved of the multi-party system.

But the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), under the chairmanship of Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, decided to go with the minority voices, citing both internal and external factors, including the fall of the Soviet Union.

While Tanzania has been a de-facto multiparty democracy for thirty years, CCM has succeeded in maintaining its supremacy over other 20 political parties, emerging a winner in all six multi-party elections that have taken place since 1995, when the first multi-party election was held.

Many have cited constitutional and legal structures governing the elections as the reason for CCM to maintain its supremacy, arguing that the structures are tilted in favour of the second longest-ruling party in Africa. It is against this backdrop that the fight for the New Constitution plus fair electoral management systems is being fought.

In her op-ed on Friday, President Samia acknowledged that the process of introducing multi-party democracy in Tanzania is “far from over,” a realization that influenced her administration to initiate discussions on the best way Tanzania can improve its multi-party democracy.

A 23-member presidential task force was formed to collect stakeholders’ opinions on the matter and already it has met with a number of individuals and organisations who have been active in championing political and legislative reforms in Tanzania.

Among other recommendations that the task force presented to President Samia on March 21, 2022, they include a proposal to amend the National Elections Act and the Political Parties Act in an attempt of building an environment that would allow free and fair elections in the country.

In her op-ed on Friday, President Samia explained the importance of amending these laws, writing: “[These changes] will bring fair competition in our elections and provide people with opportunities to elect people who can lead them.”

But President Samia’s commitment to improving multi-party democracy in Tanzania seems to be going beyond regulatory and legal reforms. Under her chairmanship, the ruling CCM has also joined the movement to demand the New Constitution, saying “the current contexts” demand the rewriting of the mother law “for larger national interests.”

“In preserving our multi-party democracy, my government is committed to undertaking changes in our political, economic and legal, [especially] electoral systems,” writes President Samia.

“The goal is to make our country stay relevant in the changing world and – just like it was [while re-introducing multi-party system] – we need to know at what time we need to do something, even though it is not supported by many people at that given time,” she added.

The first female president of Tanzania insisted on her 4R approach to building Tanzania – which includes reconciliation; resiliency; reforms; and rebuilding.

“I understand that people do not eat reconciliation, resiliency or reforms,” President Samia writes candidly.

“At the end of the day, the main goal is supposed to be economic growth,” she added. “An economy that will increase employment opportunities to our youths and the one that will open up opportunities to underprivileged groups in our societies.”

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