Stakeholders Agree to Implement Minimal Constitutional Reforms Before Elections

Key stakeholders in Tanzanias New Constitution movement agreed in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, August 23, 2023, to proceed with minimal constitutional reforms, arguing that the remaining time is insufficient to begin and complete a constitution-writing process before the civic and general elections in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

The decision was made during a two-day gathering in Dar es Salaam organized by the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) to reflect on the state of multiparty democracy in Tanzania. The stakeholders included the
government, political parties, civil society organizations, and development partners.

Hon. Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, the chairperson of TCD, a non-profit political party membership organization working to enhance multiparty democracy in the country, read the resolutions to the gatherings over 200 participants, saying the stakeholders agreed that theyd be lying to themselves if they thought they could have the New Constitution before 2024.

"As a result, this conference has resolved that there is a need for minimum reforms to be undertaken in the [1977] constitution, which would expand the democratic space in the country before the elections," said Hon. Lipumba, who also serves as national chairperson of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party. "These reforms will ensure that more citizens participate in elections."

A clause allowing for an independent election commission and independent candidacy is among the minimum modifications that stakeholders have agreed to include in the existing constitution. Furthermore, the
constitution should allow presidential elections to be contested in court, and a presidential candidate should receive 51% of the vote to be considered the winner.

These are the same reforms that stakeholders advocated for in 2014, when it became clear that people would vote in civic elections that year and the general election in 2015 without the New Constitution, a process
that began in 2011 in response to a pledge made by former President Jakaya Kikwete.

The reforms did not take place, forcing Tanzanians to vote under the present constitution of 1977, which gave the late John Magufuli of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) a presidential victory. Mr Magufuli, who died on
March 17, 2021, rejected to participate in the constitution-making process, stating that it was not a priority for him.

The Constituent Assembly approved the Second Draft of the Constitution on October 8, 2014, following a heated debate over issues such as the Unions structure, prompting the coalition of opposition parties, UKAWA, to walk out and boycott the process.

H.E. President Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, who took office on March 19, 2021, vowed to give the New Constitution to Tanzanians but did not define when the process would resume. It is now evident to important
democratic actors that the document would not be ready until 2025, unless authorities make critical measures to ensure free and fair civic and general elections.

Some of the proposed reforms have received support from regional courts, which major parties have seen as a boost to their demands for a more democratic Tanzania. This includes the need to reform important
electoral and political legislation to allow more public participation in democratic processes.

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has called on authorities to change the Political Parties Act of 2019, while the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) has ordered that the National Election
Act be revised. In both cases, regional instruments found that the statute violated the treaties that established them as well as universal democratic values.

The necessity to expedite modifications to these pieces of legislation was also reflected in the resolutions of key stakeholders read by Hon. Prof Lipumba during the conference on Wednesday, August 23, 2023.
Stakeholders agreed that a measure including minimal constitutional improvements and another containing amendment to these laws could be introduced to parliament for action concurrently.

Hon. Prof Lipumba stated that this would not be the first time such an event occurred in Tanzania, recalling that the same thing happened in 1991 when Tanzania reinstated a multiparty system, with revisions made
to the constitution and key laws.

"Because time is limited, and we cannot address these issues separately," Hon. Lipumba explained when reading the conference resolutions. "Conference participants agreed that it would be beneficial
if the government introduced these bills at the next parliamentary session, which is scheduled for September [2023]."