April 11, 2005

Registration of political parties suspended

Tanzania has suspended registration of new political parties in a move that is aimed at checking the mushrooming of weak parties. The Deputy Registrar of Political Parties, Rajabu Juma, had announced that the suspension was also aimed at buying time to accommodate amendments to the Political Parties Act No 5 of 1992, which would be tabled in parliament before the October general election. According to Juma, another reason for the suspension was the ongoing voter registration. So far, Tanzania has 18 political parties, with six fresh applications seeking temporary registration. According to Juma, the National Democratic Union (Nduta), Tanzania People's Organisation for Democracy and Development (Tapodd), Solidarity of United Party (Supa), the Party for Liberation of Poor People (Chudewama), National Democratic Party for Rehabilitation (NDPR-Marejesho) and National Patriotic Front (NPF) were seeking permanent registration. If the registrar granted temporary registration to the six applications, Tanzania would have 24 political parties. The suspension was indefinite, Juma stressed.

However, some opposition leaders have disputed this decision by calling it unconstitutional. The law does not give the registrar such powers," said Willbrod Slaa of the opposition party Chadema, who is the MP for Karatu. He also stressed that even if some amendments would be made to the Political Parties Act 1992, it would be illogical for the registrar to suspend registration of political parties. "This is evidence that some of our leaders abuse their powers and may end up tampering with the constitution because the law intended for amendment is still in force," he said. The national chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi, James Mbatia, said it was wrong to deny the public the right of political participation. "The decision will deny people the right of association, which is a basic human right," he said.

Apart from suspending fresh registration, the registrar has also warned political parties that some of them might not participate in the forthcoming general election unless they met registration requirements as stipulated in the Political Parties Act No 5 of 1992. "Among the major requirements is for a party to confirm that it has leadership on both the Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar. Some of the parties are yet to fulfil this and apart from being barred from participation in the election, the registrar has the power to deregister such parties," Juma explained. As sources at the office of the registrar informed, the reason for the suspension was to prevent the mushrooming of shaky political parties. "This has denied the public the actual benefits of multiparty," he added.

On July 1, 1992 Tanzania formally ceased to be a one-party state when amendments to its constitution and a number of laws were effected to allow a multiparty political system, ending CCM's single-party power monopoly. The opposition, however, lost to CCM in the 1995 general elections. (The East African, Nairobi)


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