HIGH COURT DEFIES GOVERNMENT

On 23 May three judges in the High Court announced decisions contrary to the wishes of the government.

Firstly, they agreed to allow private candidates to stand for election to the presidency, parliament and as councillors as a way of widening democratic institutions in the country. Opposition politician Christopher Mtikila has been trying since 1994 to get the government’s ban on private candidates lifted. The late Judge Kahwa Lugakingira had ruled in his favour in 1994 but the government later passed a Bill to rescind the decision. A CCM MP said that allowing private candidates would not be good for Tanzania because it would cost a lot of money and it would not be understood by the electorate. However, according to Mwananchi, the ruling has sent shivers down the spine of CCM and threatens to widen a growing rift between the judiciary and the executive arms of the state. The three judges said that they expected a hostile government reaction but did not wish to change their verdict. The government is likely to appeal. CUF Chairman Professor Ibrahim Lipumba said that the new judgment was just what his party and other Tanzanians had always advocated – the removal of barriers that impeded democracy. “The current constitution is designed to favour the ruling party alone. I urge all Tanzanians seeking true democracy to join forces with CUF to make sure a new constitution is put in place so that we can demonstrate peace, freedom and the rights of the people of this nation,” he said.

In its second judgment, the Court banned takrima- traditional hospitality offered by candidates during elections. Three NGOs, with considerable popular support, had taken the court action claiming that takrima was another word for bribery and corruption. The government seemed likely not to oppose this judgment although it might appeal.

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