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Why Is It Important for Young People to Participate in Local Government Elections?

Young people can safeguard their welfare by participating in leadership at the local level, where their daily lives are most impacted.

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As the 2024 local government election approaches, preparations are unfolding on multiple fronts, engaging both governmental bodies and stakeholders in the realms of politics and democracy. 

On the governmental side, it appears that the Ministry of President’s Office, Regional Administration, and Local Government (PO-RALG) will oversee the elections. This assumption is drawn from the PO-RALG budget speech in the current parliamentary session, which earmarked funds for the forthcoming local elections. 

This arrangement contrasts with the expectations of democracy advocates, who had anticipated that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would oversee the elections in accordance with the new Independent National Electoral Commission Act of 2024. 

Section 10 (1)(c) of this Act mandates that INEC coordinate and supervise local government elections according to procedures outlined in a yet-to-be-enacted law. Despite this, there remains a call for the government to introduce a bill addressing the forthcoming local government election law.

On the other hand, democracy stakeholders, including political parties through institutions and platforms such as the Tanzanian Centre for Democracy (TCD) and civil societies, have been engaged in discussions about the political situation and preparations for the upcoming elections, including the local government elections. They share common concerns about whether the changes in electoral laws will genuinely ensure a free and fair election.

READ MORE: Organisations Lay Out Recommendations to Increase Youth Representation in Leadership

In a similar vein, the youth wing of ACT-Wazalendo recently organised a debate on youth participation in the upcoming local government elections. The debate brought together young individuals from various political parties, including the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), CHADEMA, CUF, and CCK. 

This initiative is commendable, demonstrating a unified call for free and fair elections despite ideological differences.

The discussion among the youth emphasised the need to create a functional environment that respects democratic principles, enabling young people to actively participate in running for office and voting in the election. 

However, despite some minimal changes through three electoral laws—the Independent National Electoral Commission Act of 2023, the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Councillors Election Act of 2024, and the Political Parties Affairs (Amendment) Act of 2024—scepticism persists regarding whether genuine reform will occur.

Do elections matter?

Why is it important for young people to participate in local government elections? This question is pivotal for fostering democratic principles within the political process, ensuring effective participation through both voting and candidacy. Denying the right to vote or stand for election, whether it affects youths or traditionally marginalised groups, undermines the legitimacy of the electoral process.

READ MORE: Fostering Intergenerational Dialogue for a Democratic Future: The Vital Role of Youth

The youth population supports their legitimacy in engaging in local politics, driving the changes they seek within their communities. The 2022 population and housing census shows that young people make up more than 70 per cent of Tanzania’s population. 

Therefore, political decisions significantly affect them. Young people can safeguard their welfare by participating in leadership at the local level, where their daily lives are most impacted.

Local government authority elections address the immediate problems communities face, acting as a tool for grassroots change. Though local government authority may seem distant from central power, the influence of small-scale changes should not be underestimated. 

As the saying goes, charity begins at home but should not end there; small changes can be the seeds of larger transformations. Active youth engagement in grassroots politics can amplify their collective voice.

The importance of local government authority elections lies in their bottom-up approach, which brings the true voice of the people to the forefront. This approach empowers communities to decide the direction of their lives, with grassroots decisions ultimately impacting the national level.

READ MORE: How Can Tanzania’s Youth Organisations Build Capacity for Effective Civic Education?

Community support is essential for robust youth engagement in the political process, including the upcoming local elections. Elections come with unforeseen costs and unequal competition, often exacerbated by corruption. 

Overcoming these hurdles is crucial to encouraging youth participation in electoral processes. Fairness should be evident within political party primaries and in public competition.

Political will

Political will is essential to ensure free and fair elections, enabling youth participation without reservations. Trust is fundamental to ensuring that young people feel confident voting and standing for election. 

Equitable treatment should be provided for youth from both ruling and opposition parties. Unfounded fears of opposition should not deter young people from exercising their rights, especially in light of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s emphasised principles of reconciliation, resilience, reforms, and rebuilding.

Extensive youth engagement in grassroots politics paves the way for national elections and encourages higher voter turnout. Historically, voter turnout has been notably low, a trend observed globally in many democracies. 

READ MORE: Women, Youth Should Partner to Address Common Challenges

It is the responsibility of all change advocates to prioritise the youth agenda in the upcoming local elections. Local leadership positions can be transformative. As we anticipate more young individuals contending for council and parliamentary seats in the upcoming General Elections, we also look forward to witnessing young people competing for leadership roles in their local neighbourhoods, villages, and suburbs.

Lastly, there should be more debates like the one organised by ACT-Wazalendo’s youth wing regarding the preparations for the upcoming local government elections in 2024 and the general election in 2025. 

Such initiatives are crucial to attracting youth to engage effectively in the electoral process. Recognising that youth represent a powerful and resourceful force for change is essential. More informed and engaged young people are needed to influence and transform the political landscape.

Sinyagile Kibinga is a political and legal commentator in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She’s available at or on X as @sinyagilek. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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