by David Brewin
It is now only about four months to the parliamentary elections in Britain which are going to be hotly contested. It is about ten months before the presidential and parliamentary elections in Tanzania which will also be hotly contested. And, surprisingly, in neither country are political experts sure what the results will be. All this contributes to a growing political fever, even though political parties in both countries have increasing difficulty in persuading people to vote.
The ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party
The largest and longest serving party in Tanzania, the CCM, with its great strength, particularly in rural areas, is still fairly confident about remaining in power for another five years. Its popularity rests on its stability and its preservation of peace and order unlike most neighbouring countries.
However, the unsatisfactory finalisation of the Constitution-making process (as explained by Enos Bukuku), the apparent government decision to ignore strong feelings in Zanzibar and say no to a third government, plus the increasing political tensions in parliament over demands for more transparency in the awarding of mining contracts (see Roger Nellist below) and the rising discontent about corruption (see Ben Taylor’s article on the ITPL scandal) must be causes of concern to many voters.
The second largest party, CHADEMA, had great hopes of increasing its position substantially in the elections, but the attempts to expel their leading radical MP and anti-corruption campaigner, Zitto Kabwe, could have damaged its chances. CHADEMA’s leadership wants to get rid of Kabwe because of his reluctance to accept the party’s policies but Kabwe retains the powerful position of Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly and thus remains of great interest to the media. He also attracts the support of many among the younger generation of potential voters.
An opinion poll by Twaweza in November showed no clear front runner. Former CCM Prime Minister Edward Lowassa had the support of just one in eight voters, 13%; current CCM Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, who announced his decision to stand in a BBC interview in London, had 12%; with 11% favouring the leading opposition candidate, Wilbroad Slaa from CHADEMA – a candidate for the presidency in 2010.
But party loyalties remain strong. According to the poll, the ruling CCM party is supported by 47% of voters. Amongst the growing numbers of young voters under 35 years old, 44% claim CCM affiliation with 34% supporting CHADEMA.
There are plenty of other CCM aspirants for the presidency, all except one of whom will be eliminated at CCM selection conferences early in 2015. They include Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe (with 5% support), East African Cooperation minister Samuel Sitta (4%) and Works minister John Maghafuli (3%) plus Defence minister Shamsi Nahodha.
A rising star and one of the latest additions to the list of CCM presidential hopefuls is January Makamba, the Deputy Minister of Communications, Science and Technology and a CCM MP in Lushoto District. A close aide to President Kikwete for five years, at 40 years old he is much younger than most of the other aspirants.
He says that it is difficult to see how those who have been in politics for 40 years, ‘who are steeped in the ways of a (former) one-party state, a rigidly planned economy and controls on freedom’, can contend with the unique challenges of a rapidly changing country. Asked by the media what precisely he wanted to change, he said “Many things, but the first will be our mindset. It is important that Tanzanians believe that it is within their ability to achieve great things both individually and as a country….. We want to establish very high standards for public servants. There will be zero tolerance of corruption and bad government.”
If the CCM candidate selection process results in a stalemate, a possible compromise might be Chief Justice Augustine Ramadhani, from Zanzibar who is a practising Anglican Christian and might attract a following in both Zanzibar and the mainland of Tanzania.
“I don’t know”
The sagacious political commentator Elsie Eyakuze pointed out in The Citizen that in her view “by far the most interesting finding in the poll was that a full third of the respondents, when asked whom they would vote for, replied that they didn’t know”. She went on to say that “a significant portion of voters is willing to step away from Tanzania’s ‘strong-man formula of politics’ and consider alternatives such as better government!” She went on: “A grimmer interpretation could be that we have got ‘indecision paralysis’ because the options all look a bit unwelcome”. Eyakuze said that she hopes that the numbers of uncommitted voters will grow and grow. Unable to conceal her feminist views, she also pointed out that the most popular contenders in the elections “will all be men of a certain age. No one with a uterus or direct personal experience of the Twitterverse is going to get within sniffing distance of the office of President”.
Memorandum of Understanding
In a sensible move which will help the two smaller opposition parties to survive, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the two big opposition parties – CHADEMA on the mainland and CUF in Zanzibar and two small parties, NCCR-Mageuzi and the NLD, all of which have MPs in the National Assembly. Under the MOU the parties will field and support only one candidate (at all levels including the presidency) in the elections. This move should help in the survival of the two small parties and might even attract a few CCM candidates who are disappointed not to have been selected in the party’s candidate selection process.
The effect of the referendum
The referendum on the new constitution, according to present plans, will take place on 30 April 2015, six months before the presidential and parliamentary elections. It is difficult to forecast how this will affect the outcome of these elections. The Presidential Communication Directorate proposes to spend a large sum of money on the campaign for a “Yes” vote in the referendum and there will be a media blitz to persuade people to vote ‘Yes’. If they vote ‘No’ Tanzania could be in a constitutional crisis.
Zanzibaris (one million people compared with some forty million on the mainland) tend to take elections very seriously and are likely to vote in large numbers in the constitutional referendum as well as in the elections which will follow. But there have been rumblings of discontent about the way in which the constitution favoured by the CCM seems likely to be pushed through. Many Zanzibaris hoped that, if the alternative three-party government had been accepted, Zanzibar would have a much greater influence in the future government of Tanzania.
There is also the future of the Government of National Unity between Zanzibar’s two main parties CCM and CUF to be decided. The coalition government, installed in 2010 following years of political violence, has succeeded in maintaining political peace in the Isles for five years. This could prove to be popular with many voters especially in view of the political turmoil which many of Tanzania’s neighbours have suffered since independence.
Biometric voting registration
Tanzania intends to prepare the way for the use of new electronic voter registration technology, using Biometric voters’ kits. The Treasury has made funds available for pilot schemes in Kawe, Katavi and Kilombero constituencies but there has been some delay because the relevant people have not yet been trained. The National Election Commission intends to train personnel from 169 districts in readiness for the nationwide registration exercise.