It’s decision time for Tanzania. Millions of Tanzanians across the country will tomorrow go to polling stations to elect their representatives at the national and local legislatures. Their decision will determine the fate of the nation for the next five years and beyond. They will also go to polling stations to vote for United Republic of Tanzania President and the President of Zanzibar.Putting aside the figures over 22.7 million registered voters, more than 70,000 polling stations, several political parties and over one thousand candidates vying for more than 1,000 seats, this vote is significant for Tanzania in many respects.This will be the fifth truly free and fair election Tanzania has held since it got rid of one party rule in early 1990s and ushered in a new era of democracy. The consensus nationwide since then is that Tanzanians should build this nation in spite of its diversity in race, ethnicity, culture, language and religion on the basis of democracy.For more than 20 years, Julius Nyerere tried ruling the country the socialist and authoritarian way but in the end the regime became so fragile that all the gains made in economic development were virtually wiped out during the country’s economic crisis of 1970s and 80s.With the first five elections under its belt, Tanzania has earned the accolade as the third largest democracy in Africa after Nigeria and South Africa.Among the predominantly Muslim countries in Africa, Tanzania is the second largest democracy, disproving the widely held belief that Islam and democracy just don’t get along.
In recent weeks, the Tanzanian media have come under fire for their reporting of politics and election campaigns. Political reporting is said to be too influenced by commercial concerns, too obsessed with gossip and scandal, and too focused on trivia and ‘sound bites’ at the expense of serious issues that affects more 47 million Tanzanians. Two main contenders camps have been complaining and accusing local newspapers, Tv and Radio stations of bias, sensationalism, ‘inept’ journalism and ‘two horse-race’ reporting and obsession with opinion polls. How United Republic of Tanzania decides tomorrow will put these allegations to the test the in-depth analysis of Tanzania election reporting by local, regional and international media. No doubt compared to 2010 election, the 2015 general election in Tanzania has seen reporting change especially on how political news audiences, news production and shifts in political campaigning have influenced media content with profound implications for Tanzania democracy.Not to be left behind has been the social media impact in this year’s general election.Admittedly, we do not yet have a perfect democracy anywhere in the world, but as long as each election is an improvement over the previous one as Tanzanians are about to experience tomorrow,the country should be content.
After all, Tanzania is still essentially experimenting with its democracy like many other countries across the world.So what else is new with this year’s parliamentary and Presidential election, one might ask.This is the first time voters have had a greater say on who will become the country President in what is seen as a tightly contested Presidential race between Edward Lowassa of the opposition coalition and the ruling party candidate John Magufuli. Courtesy of the supreme law of Tanzania, the candidates with the most votes will take the seats. Just like in previous elections, voters have the power to directly elect their representatives in the legislatures.This weakens the hands of political parties but brings together elected politicians and their constituents. Now, they are more accountable and must ensure their loyalty first and foremost is with the Tanzanians, and not with their party.There have been rumours online predicting some protests following the election, especially with problems over the voters’ list, but if we go by the elections in 2005 and 2010, which were seen as rubber stamping ruling party candidate, things have a way of resolving themselves in Tanzania. Contador Harrison expect this year will be no different, because at the end of the day, Tanzanians knows that the cost of failure would be horrendous, not just financially, but also in terms of political stability. Tanzanians should preserve the festive mood, cast their ballots tomorrow and accept the outcome, regardless of whether it meets their own expectations.May democracy march on in United Republic of Tanzania.