Expect a huge number of election result challenges, says TZ Chief Justice

WE ARE READY:Tanzania Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman

WE ARE READY:Tanzania Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman

Tanzania Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman has acknowledged this year’s battle for the State House is extremely competitive but guaranteed the judiciary is well placed to handle election petitions more rapidly.

“We expect huge turnout of election petitions this year and we’re prepared,” he said in Dar es Salaam Tuesday.

During the 2010 general election, the High Court received 44 election challenges of which 17 went to full trial with the rest resolved at the preliminary stage.

Delivering a key note speech at the opening of the workshop on “the role of the judiciary in securing election process in Tanzania: best practices and challenges emerged in 2010 Tanzania and 2013 Kenya elections petitions” the Chief Justice said “it is an undisputed fact that 2015 General elections in Tanzania are in many respects quite animated and unique.”

Candidates from ten political parties are contesting in the elections. Four of the main opposition parties; Chadema, CUF, NLD and NCCR-Mageuzi have fielded joint candidates on both presidential and parliamentary levels.

Justice Othman said already 35 Judges out of 84 Judges of the High Court have so far been trained on managing election petitions.

“We took a purposeful decision to work together with the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) whom I sincerely thank, so that additional 35 Judges could also be trained,” Mr. Othman said.
According to the Chief Justice, empowering judges to best handle election petitions is a viable investment in democracy and the rule of law.

Courts in the past had experienced delays in addressing election petitions. They were not handled within the initial trial time limit provided by the law; one year, according to the Chief Justice.
He says “Judging from the 2010 general elections, the situation has improved appreciably. The Court’s performance has been much healthier.”

Judge (rtd) Damian Lubuva, Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) lauded the training saying will allow judges to appropriately handle the petitions and promote a free and fair election.
However, the Chairman raised concern some politicians and activists are asking voters to remain at polling stations saying it would be inappropriate considering the expected huge turnout of voters.

“The public will be allowed to vote and leave the premises to allow those who have not casted their vote to exercise their constitutional rights … the public will be allowed entry after vote count exercise.”

THRDC Coordinator, Onesmo Olengurumwa, said the workshop is bringing 40 High Court judges and Registrar of High Courts to help improve their capacity to handle election petitions fairly and promptly.
“This also seeks to reduce challenges and errors recorded from the 2010 election petitions,” he said.

In five days, Tanzanians are heading to the polls to elect their next president, legislators and local leaders. And campaigns are heated as the ruling party’s presidential candidate John Pombe Magufuli is fiercely competing with Edward Lowassa of Chadema and the opposition alliance, UKAWA.