RaiaMwema published an interesting bit of data journalism today, on it’s front page:
It’s the chart on the left that’s most interesting – it shows that just over half (54%) of the 268 people they asked said that they felt the Constitutional Assembly should make its decisions using secret voting, while 43% said the voting should be open. The issue has divided the assembly itself for a full month now – a final decision on the voting procedure has been repeatedly deferred.
I’m an advocate of openness in government – that sunlight is a great disinfectant – but this is a case that demonstrates very clearly how making things more transparent can have the effect of strengthening the powerful. The ruling party, CCM, has been pressing hard for transparent voting, along with a few of others, while the pressure for closed voting has come mainly from opposition figures, with a few allies within CCM. The crux of the matter is that closed voting would make it easier for CCM members of the assembly to vote against their party’s wishes, while open voting would empower the CCM leadership to ensure their representatives stick to the party line.
On the other hand, closed voting would potentially open to the door to other abuses – how could anyone know if a member of the assembly is saying one thing in public and doing the opposite in their votes? They could speak about protecting media freedoms, for example, while voting against measures in the new constitution that would protect those freedoms.
An added irony is that many of the same people who have been calling for secret voting have been upset by the decision to exclude the media from the meetings of the assembly’s committees, and vice-versa. So perhaps everyone likes transparency, but only when it suits them.
Going back to the open/closed voting issue, probably the only way to reach a decision will be to vote on it. But using an open or closed voting system? I suspect you would get a very different result depending on which method you used. Which is exactly the problem.
Finally, continuing the cartoonists theme, Nipashe and The Citizen both went for a similar angle: