Tanzanian referendum postponed

The referendum on the new Tanzanian constitution, which was to be held on 30 April, has been postponed indefinitely. The official reason is that there have been delays in the registration of voters.

However the referendum has also run into difficulties because opposition parties and the Christian churches claim that the draft of the new constitution was railroaded through the constituent assembly last year without a quorum and since then has not been properly explained to voters. Tanzanians are due to go to the polls at the end of October, but the delay to the renewal of the 1977 constitution will now make the elections more complicated.

Some of the proposed changes to the 1977 constitution include the creation of an independent electoral commission, the right to challenge election results, limits to the number of ministers appointed by the president, 50/50 per cent representation of men and women in parliament and equal land rights for women.

One suggestion is to reschedule the referendum in August. Another is to hold the referendum on the same day as the general elections at the end of October (traditionally on the last Sunday of the month) in order to avoid the organisational difficulties and extra expense. However holding both the referendum and the general elections the same day would mean that voters would not know under what constitution they were casting their ballots. The Catholic bishops conference of Tanzania, which is opposed to the way the draft for the new constitution has been handled, has suggested that the referendum be held after the general elections.

The current president, Jakaya Kikwete, is unable to run for a third term in office, but his party the CCM still dominates the political scene and a candidate loyal to Kikwete would be expected to win the presidency in the October elections.