Should cabinet ministers cease to be Members of Parliament? It is a question that has recently dominated online debates as some Tanzanians suggest removing the constitutional requirement that cabinet ministers be Members of Parliament.
I believe this is a wise proposal, as it would expand the president’s pool of potential candidates and reduce the pressure on members of parliament to avoid criticising the government, lest they jeopardise their chances of a cabinet position.
In a parliamentary system, the cabinet is typically appointed by the prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party in parliament. Cabinet ministers are also Members of Parliament and must retain their seats to remain in the cabinet.
This system has several advantages, including ensuring that the cabinet is accountable to parliament, as ministers can be removed from office by a vote of no confidence. It also promotes cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government.
However, the parliamentary system also has some drawbacks. One is that it can lead to instability, as governments can fall if they lose the support of the majority party in parliament.
Another drawback is that it can limit the prime minister’s choices for cabinet positions, as they are constrained by the need to appoint members of their own party.
In a presidential system like ours here in Tanzania, the president appoints the cabinet, and cabinet ministers do not need to be members of the legislature. This system has the advantage of giving the president more flexibility in choosing their cabinet.
It also reduces the risk of government instability, as the president cannot be removed from office by a vote of no confidence. However, the presidential system also has some drawbacks.
One is that it can lead to a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, which can make it difficult to pass legislation.
Another drawback is that it can give the president too much power, especially if a strong legislature does not check them. There are several countries around the world where ministers are not Members of Parliament.
Some notable examples include the United States, where the president appoints his or her cabinet members, who are the heads of the various federal departments. Cabinet members do not need to be members of Congress, the country’s lawmaking body.
In Switzerland, the Federal Council is the highest executive authority. It is composed of seven members, who are elected by the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. Federal Council members do not need to be members of the Federal Assembly.
In Singapore also, the president appoints the prime minister and other cabinet members. Cabinet members do not need to be Members of Parliament.
If ministers are not required to be Members of Parliament, the government has a wider pool of candidates to choose from. This means ministers can be selected based on their skills, experience, and expertise rather than simply their political connections.
This can lead to a more competent and effective government. For example, a government may be able to appoint a minister of finance who is a renowned economist, even if that economist is not a Member of Parliament.
If ministers are appointed from outside parliament, they are more likely to be technocrats or experts in their respective fields. This can lead to a more competent and effective government.
For example, a government may be able to appoint a minister of health who is a renowned epidemiologist, even if that epidemiologist is not a Member of Parliament.
Overall, the advantages of not having Members of Parliament as ministers outweigh the disadvantages, which might include lack of accountability on the part of appointed cabinet ministers and their questionable legitimacy.
A government composed of ministers selected based on their skills, experience, and expertise is likely to be more competent and effective. Additionally, a government that is representative of the population in terms of gender, ethnicity, and other factors is likely to be more legitimate and have greater public support.
Of course, the best system of government for Tanzania should depend on various factors, such as its political culture, history, and level of development. But it is essential that Tanzanians themselves discuss these issues as they struggle to develop a system that best suits them.
Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X (Twitter) as @thomasjkibwana. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.