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Draft Constitution in Tanzania proposes gender equality in electoral system

A new constitution in Tanzania has been in the making since May 2012, and the draft was released in the beginning of June 2013. Among many other changes, a major improvement to the opportunity of women to get elected is included in the draft.

Since its independence, Tanzania has been politically very stable, and it is currently officially a multi-party democracy. However, the hegemonic party CCM has ruled the country since the independence and the opposition parties have been unable to break its hegemony. Tanzania’s electoral system, a single-member, first-past-the-post plurality system favours the ruling party and has permitted it to win a greater percentage of seats in parliament than has been its share of the votes. This electoral system has also been extremely unfavourable to women, because it’s difficult for women to get elected in a single-member electoral district. In Tanzania, “special seats” for women and other marginalised groups has been used to ensure a certain quota for women MPs. However, this quota has not ensured a genuine participation of women, as these women working under a “men’s mandate” in the parliament have acted more to strengthen the voice of their own party than to promote equality and democracy.

The new draft constitution suggests a significant change in the electoral system; the special seats for women would be abolished and from every electoral district, a man and a woman would be elected. Should this reform be included in the final version of the new constitution, half of the Tanzanian parliamentarians will be women in the future. And most of all, they will be democratically elected women accountable to their voters and with their own electoral district.

This has been a central goal for the Tanzania Women’s Cross-Party Platform that Demo Finland supports. TWCP has been lobbying for this goal since the beginning of the constitutional review. The chairperson of the platform, Anna Abdallah has been determinedly striving for the 50-50 representation of women in Tanzanian politics, and the lobbying of TWCP’s member organisations in their own parties has had a big impact in the content of the draft constitution.

A referendum of the revised constitution will take place in 2014.

Read more: A report on the political economy of Tanzania, describing also the political situation and electoral system.

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