With UNDP support, Tanzanian Judiciary readies for poll aftermathOct 12, 2015
In preparation for disputes that may arise from the forthcoming general election in Tanzania, UNDP has supported the training of judicial officials to prepare them to resolve elections petitions quickly, fairly and transparently.
In total, more than 160 Appellate and High Court Judges and High Court Registrars from the mainland and their counterparts from Zanzibar benefited from the training, which is being delivered through a series of workshops held over July to late October. The training is designed to familiarize them with electoral laws, procedures and case law on electoral petitions, and to provide them with the best available international experiences.
According to Justice Edward Rutakangwa, Tanzania’s electoral process will be under considerable scrutiny this year as there is heightened public interest in the elections. Tanzania’s vibrant print and electronic media is also giving extensive coverage to elections-related issues.
“Gauged by the flair, pomp and zeal displayed so far by the candidates and their political parties as well as the populace as a whole, it is evident that this year's electoral process will arouse unprecedented public interest. The prevailing cry is for a credible and genuine election which will be seen by all to be legitimate,” he said.
“Effective electoral dispute resolution mechanisms are vital because such disputes have the potential to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and lead to either overt or covert social conflict. It is for this reason that judicial resolution of election disputes has become a fundamental feature of any electoral democracy”, Rutakangwa said.
Although Tanzania’s legal framework is considered adequate for effective petitions handling in line with international commitments, there have been notable weaknesses including excessive delays.
“A vital part of any election which makes the entire process indisputably credible is the opportunity for both contesting candidates and voters to seek a peaceful, fair and speedy resolution of all disputes arising during the entire election process”, Rutakangwa added.
According to Justice Rutakangwa, UNDP’s support was therefore timely and would enable Tanzania’s Judiciary to become technically proficient in handling electoral disputes.
Beyond the series of workshops, including one for State Attorneys to help prepare them for their role in bringing petitions cases to the courts, UNDP is also supporting a study on Tanzania’s experience in EDR since the first multi-party elections in 1995.
To further support the effectiveness of all branches of the judiciary in handling election petitions, the UNDP will be working with the Judicial Training Institute to publish a compendium of all electoral laws and regulations and to produce a petitions handling manual, UNDP’s Country Director, Awa Dabo disclosed.
“We hope this study will contribute to knowledge production on electoral dispute resolution in the country. I further hope this study will serve as key impetus for institutional and legal reform, especially in the context of a possible new constitution,” she added.
The training are organized under the aegis of the Democratic Empowerment Project (DEP), a three-year electoral cycle based program managed by UNDP through a multi-donor fund.
The project aims to strengthen the credibility and capacity of key institutions of democracy in Tanzania to effectively implement their election and political function. Beyond support to the NEC and ZEC and political parties in relation to their respective role of contributing to democratic elections, DEP is also supporting the Police to foster increased election security and with civil society, media and the Registrar of Political Parties to promote a democratic environment in the country.