Tanzania’s parliament passed amendments to legislation late on Tuesday that give sweeping powers to a government-appointed registrar over political parties, a move that opposition legislators say would effectively criminalise political activity and turn Tanzania into “a de facto one-party state”.
President John Magufuli’s government has already banned some newspapers, restricted opposition rallies and detained dozens of their members which, along with repeated state intervention in key sectors like mining and agriculture, have dimmed investment in the region’s third-biggest economy.
The amendments give a government-run registrar sweeping powers to de-register parties and provide for up to a year in jail for anyone engaging in unauthorized civic education. Critics say the amendments will sharply curb freedoms in the East African nation and prevent an effective challenge to Magufuli and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in next year’s general election and this year’s local elections.
But ruling party lawmakers say the amendments give the registrar much-needed authority to act as a referee and ensure political parties do not embezzle subsidies from taxpayers and that they hold transparent internal leadership elections.