Tanzania’s main opposition group — the Party for Democracy and Progress, or Chadema — is speaking out against a call for a temporary suspension of the campaign of its presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, who is facing the incumbent John Magufuli in the coming general elections. Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission has accused Lissu of violating several election regulations, and opposition members say they are observing the request even as they say it is unfair, illegal, and unacceptable.
A recent announcement by Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission that it will suspend for seven days from October 3 the campaign of the outspoken opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu is being met with verbal protests from Tanzania’s main opposition group.
The commission accused Lissu of violating some election regulations, including stopping to make unplanned addresses to masses of people.
Lissu says the commission’s move is to silence him in a period of one week while President John Magufuli is taking a break from campaigning.
“I know their intention. They do not want me to be on the campaign trail during the same week that Magufuli is resting,” he says, adding that “they are wary of the issues that I will raise, for which they have no adequate responses. It is a strategy to scare me, which I am not going to accept.”
According to the recent timetable released by the National Electoral Commission, Magufuli will be having an 8-day break during the same period that Lissu has been forced to put a pause on his campaign.
Lissu’s supporters say this is just one of a series of efforts to shut down the opposition.
Ibrahim Chawe, a member of Chadema and a communication officer for the Chadema youth organization, says the ruling party is guilty of the very violations for which Lissu and the opposition party are being unfairly accused.
Hellen Sisya, an activist and communications specialist with Youth Democrat Union of Africa, says the commission also should have the power to hold accountable the ruling party when violating the election regulations.
Hellen says Lissu has also sent to the National Electoral Commission his accusations concerning the ruling party violating the election regulations, which he says the electoral commission seems to be ignoring.
Political analyst Azaveli Lwaitama says the national electoral commission is not independent.
Lwaitama says the commission has openly shown it is not as independent as expected and as many people had been saying. He adds that he thinks people have now accepted that the commission is favoring the ruling party but will try to hide behind “public support” to justify its actions.
Clarifying the issue, the commission members say it is not their decision to suspend Lissu’s campaigning, and that they’re only implementing what the ethics committee had agreed upon.
Titus Mwanzalila, an education officer of the National Electoral Commission, says these were steps taken by the ethics committee, in which 90% of its members come from various political parties. He underscores that it is the members of myriad political parties, along with several from the government and the commission, who have made the decisions.
In a statement Tuesday, October 1, by the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania on the upcoming elections, the U.S. government says it does not support any specific candidate or party in Tanzania’s upcoming elections but supports the democratic process itself, including a genuinely free and fair election.
Meanwhile, the ruling party is still emphasizing there will be a free and fair election if everyone, especially political parties, observe and obey the law. As for the opposition, its members say they believe there is still a long way to go to achieve that goal.