Monday, February 22, 2010

Know Your Em Pee Continued: Polis could be better!

So. I have heard from a couple of people who were of the opinion that the piece of research put out by Uwazi/Twaweza/Whatever incarnation of a Hivos-supported initiative it is about MP performance in Bunge is at best a partial measure of performance, at worst a vapid piece of crap. I am of the former opinion because I like the fact that Uwazi made some use of Polis data to begin the examination of MP performance. Anyone can have an opinion about politics, but opinions are far more interesting when backed by empirical data.

And here I am on Polis trying to figure out how the heck to get more information on my MP because I agree that counting the number of Bunge session interventions during an MP's term in office doesn't tell us very much about said MP's actual utility. Case in point: lots of CCM MPs capitalized on the anti-corruption drive initiated by the opposition to spew copious amounts of hot air into the House and gain instant popularity via the media, Anna Kilango style, but there is little evidence of genuine belief in the cause. And just last week, I listened to Mzee Malecela (aka Mister Anna Kilango) justify the rejection of a bill reducing the President's executive powers on the basis that after God Almighty, he should be the ultimate authority in Tanzanians' lives. Fun couple.

This raises a question though- how to come up with a relatively solid measure of MP performance that incorporates indicators of quality, effectiveness, accessibility, etc (i.e. those hard-to-measure things). I found a project in this vein by the Canadians supported by the World Bank. Because I privilege particularism over universality in the pursuit of deep knowledge of a polity, I am more interested in a Tanzanian list of indicators of MP performance. I am neutral, it can include items like direct patronage to capture MPs like Rostam Aziz who support their constituency's development partly through the use of their very deep pockets. Ideas?

And on that note- special seats. I do believe we have a minimum of 75 seats in Parliament set aside for women, appointed at the discretion of their party. Affirmative action, Bongo style. Sadly for us Tanzanians, these "representatives" don't seem to be vigorous in the pursuit of anything other than their per diems. As a feminist, it drives me crazy to see so much wasted opportunity: 75 women in the august house and we're still not having a conversation about issues like our squirelly inheritance laws, high rates of schoolgirl pregnancy accompanied by low rates of impregnator convictions (there is a strong child abuse element to this phenomenon), prostitution and pornography (fine if you're an adult, not if you are a minor), entrenched sexual harrassment...

Imagine, if you will, that these appointed MPs are free to choose any issue to make their own on a national scale- the environment, education, taxation, constitutional law, etymology, corporate governance, whatever, without the weight of a constituency to drag them down. And still, they suck. I hope that there is a special place in hell for them.

Jay Kay has said several times that he intends to find a way to make the parliament more 'gender-balanced' than it is*. I support the sentiment Jay Kay, but before you start raping the constitution to do so, maybe you should focus the party's energies on appointing better women politicians to parliament. Lets start there.

*tokenism is not a solution, no matter how many tokens you appoint. And Polis: more difficult to work than it needs to be. I am still stuck somewhere in the antechamber.


  1. first, get away from polis (a complete mess - or maybe it doesn't work in firefox) and onto the main ! Very good, but has its drawbacks...

  2. Right? Last time I went to bunge dot go dot tz, it took me 20 minutes just to get to my em pee's page. I was hoping that Polis would yield some details about interventions per MP in detail, or at the very least link the intervention to the relevant Hansard. No such luck, or is there something I am not looking at?

  3. Perhaps Jack Kiks chose them because they have somehow propelled him to his thorn...i mean throne. ahem! Point is we do not want the details of how his she friends were instrumental in putting him up. All i ask for is the same deal for Tanzanians, if you did it for JK then do it for us!


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