Tanzania under the framework of the on-going Constitutional review process has undertaken extensive appraisal of its electoral system. Tanzania has for many decades operated an electoral structure that was constructed under a single party system. The President has always held the power to appoint the Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and five other commissioners (a total of 7 commissioners) to the Electoral Commission; in accordance with article 74 of the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania. Although the criterion made it incumbent upon the President to appoint judges of the High Court or the Court of Appeal of Tanzania, there weren't any stringent checks and balances to guarantee non-subjectivity in the appointment process.
The new Constitution on the other hand proposes comprehensive and holistic electoral reforms targeting: the introduction of a competitive process of appointing Electoral Commissioners, introduction of the biometric system of voting, institution of a sustainable funding mechanism for the Electoral Commission, appraising the representation of women in Parliament with a view of hitting the 50:50 gender parity target in Parliament.
Rwanda on the other hand recently made voter registration a civil responsibility rather than mandatory as it was for many years; it has officially adopted the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in electoral service delivery; it is working on reforms to increase transparency in the tallying and transmission of election results from polling stations to the tallying centre; and dismantling legal restraints to free journalism around electoral matters.
Burundi's next general election is scheduled for 2015. Two years to the election, political parties are advocating for the loosening of restrictions on political party fundraising. Under the current legal regime, foreign funding for political parties in Burundi is restricted and yet state funding for political parties is only limited to subsiding campaign and election related expenses.
The question is, will the on-going regional constitutional and electoral changes prompt a positive fire of reform in our own country? We need it, we want it! And we should remain optimistic and hopeful that the legal gymnastics going on in our good neighbouring states will spur and guide worthy reforms targeting deficits in and around Uganda's electoral and political processes. Without a doubt, urgent reforms are needed to restore transparency, credibility and integrity especially in elections. More importantly, such reforms could repair the broken confidence of citizens in elections.
We need reform and we must get it!