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MP should be recalled by constituency, not parties

8th January 2012
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1. A political party like any other formal organization has the standing orders, specific rules and regulations geared at governing, regulating and rationalising the behavioural patterns of its leaders and members.

This is important in order to prevent anarchical situations and, indeed, to bring about what is generally referred to as "party discipline" and "order" in the conduct of the party's political work. A healthy party at all levels depends on its capability to enforce its rules and regulations.

2. The rules and regulations governing the conduct of the party leaders and/or members should be owned by the members and leaders that they are designed to serve and protect.

The rules and regulations should not be imposed to the members and leaders from a single person or an enclave of individuals in the top leadership hierarchy of the political party. The members and leaders have the duty and obligation to respect the party's rules and regulations. The political party leaders or members whose conducts are prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the party must not be spared.

3. In the Tanzanian political milieu, political parties have the legitimate power to discipline their leaders and members whose conduct, beyond any shadow of doubt; demonstrably undermine the party in different significant ways. I have no problem with the disciplinary powers vested upon the political parties by their own "rule books" provided that justice is done to the accused, including the right to be heard.

4. I have a problem with some political parties, particularly those in the opposition camp. Intra-party democracy is either scant or acutely rare. Some of the more unhealthy conflicts which culminate into expulsion can be resolved amicably without resorting to political ‘capital punishments.’

Dissent and differing views are not at all tolerated by the leadership enclave at the apex, reflecting what German sociologist Robert Michels (1876-1936) referred to as "oligarchy" being a characteristic feature of complex organizations, including political parties.

Most parties in Tanzania are oligarchic per excellence. Such political parties may not be dependable champions of good governance and democracy. This is not health for promoting and nurturing democracy in the country. Some 24 years have elapsed since the country reverted to political pluralism, including multi-party political dispensation.

Contrary to broad expectations, intra-party democratic practices remain at the crossroads. Something has to be done to build the capacity of parties in conflict management.

5. As the country prepares to write a "new constitution," it is high time we directed our focus on the powers of a political party to make a decision that directly leads to the end of the tenure of office of a Member of Parliament who was elected by both party and non-party voters in a constituency.

In this regard the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, Article 71 (1) (e) stipulates that a Member of Parliament shall cease to be Member of Parliament and shall vacate his seat in the National Assembly if s/he "ceases to be a member of the party to which he belonged when he was elected or appointed to be a Member of Parliament."

This provision is in the contemporary era politically untenable taking into account the poor ability of many political parties to either prevent conflicts or manage internal rivalries.

This provision is evidently obnoxious or draconian and it should not appear in our envisaged "New Constitution." Once a person is democratically elected to Parliament his tenure must be protected. The electorate-cum-voters should be the only power to recall their MP.

6. We are quite aware that democracy, expressed through the conduct of regular elections and by-elections is very expensive, especially in the context of our country with a myriad of competing priorities and scarcity of financial resources. It is not too late; a law could be enacted to enable the party whose candidate won the elections, once it expels the incumbent nominate a replacement be made with immediate effect.

Alternatively, the party whose candidate secured the second position in the race for the parliamentary seat in the constituency should be declared Member of Parliament to replace the one expelled by his or her political party.

 

Dr Benson Bana is head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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