Reading Time: 15 minutes read
In a sweltering makeshift restaurant in downtown Dar es Salaam, a fading picture of Julius Nyerere, grey-haired like a stern but loving grandfather, looks down at diners. Next to it is a framed picture of President Jakaya Kikwete who Tanzanians will be seeking to replace when they go to the polls on Sunday.
The two leading candidates, John Pombe Magufuli of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and Edward Lowassa of the opposition Ukawa alliance have both repeatedly invoked Nyerere’s name during their campaigns but shifting demographics and political realities mean Tanzania’s Founding Father has, in this election more than any other, become a symbol of the country’s past promise, but not its future prospects.
Formed in 1977 through the merger of the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu), the ruling party in the Mainland and the Afro-Shirazi Party that ruled in Zanzibar, CCM has been in power since Independence and is one of the oldest and most entrenched political parties on the continent.
Yet, like its counterpart, the African National Congress in South Africa, CCM has shown signs of weakness and fatigue that could be costly in Sunday’s election, including the defection of former prime minister Lowassa to the opposition after internal disagreements over Kikwete’s succession.
Such internal disputes are not new. In 1995, in the country’s first multiparty General Election, CCM was rocked by the defection of minister Augustine Mrema and Nyerere had to expend precious personal political capital to stop the renegade official from taking power.
“Tanzania stinks of corruption,” the famously austere Nyerere said at the time. “The State House is a holy place. I was not elected by the people of Tanzania to turn it into a den of racketeers. This year’s elections will be ruled by money. Previously, candidates were asked where and how they got their property. Wealth was not a qualification. This year wealth will be the primary qualification!”
Twenty years later, and after a series of mega public procurement scandals over the past decade, corruption has slithered down the list of priorities for many Tanzanians.
The choice is between a candidate fronted by a ruling party with a long list of corruption scandals under its watch, and an opposition candidate who was forced to resign as Prime Minister over his role in one of the bigger ones, the Richmond scandal.
January Makamba, an MP and spokesman for the CCM campaign recently said the opposition had “ceded the anti-corruption agenda” by picking Lowassa as its candidate. This could yet return to haunt Ukawa but an Afrobarometer survey in 2014 found that corruption was only the ninth most important problem Tanzanians wanted the government to address, behind health, education, water supply, agriculture among others.
This change in attitudes reflects wider changes in Tanzanian society since the days of Nyerere that could affect the outcome of the election. Long gone are the days of Ujaama socialism; Dar es Salaam and other major Tanzanian towns now spot large shopping malls — those temples of individual consumerism — and major international brands.
Younger Africans today are part of a growing, aspirational class of “millennials” born around the turn of, or who came of age at the turn of the millennium and they will have a large say in elections across the continent, including in Tanzania.
Some 57 per cent of the country’s 22.7 million registered voters are aged between 18 and 35, while one in four is aged 35 to 49. In fact, with a median age of 17.5, almost half of all Tanzania’s population of almost 50 million were born after Nyerere’s death in October 1999.
Many, like Laetitia Mramba, a young woman training as a hairdresser and who says she will vote for the opposition, are restless and impatient. “CCM has been in power for over 50 years,” she says, “we need to see what another party can do once in power. In fact, even if Lowassa wins he may not change much because he has been part of the same party.”
Asked by Afrobarometer researchers about the overall direction of the country, 73 per cent of respondents said the country was headed in the wrong direction. Another 76 per cent described the condition of the country at the time of the survey a year ago as either “very bad” or “fairly bad.”
Such is the palpable need to chart a new course that both the opposition and CCM have run campaigns of change. Rev Dr Aidan Msafiri, a lecturer at the Stella Maris University College in Mtwara pointed out to The Guardian newspaper in Dar es Salaam in a recent interview that awareness of this need for change had informed the ruling party’s decision to print out placards and posters urging Tanzanians to “Vote for Magufuli” and not “Vote CCM” as is the norm.
CCM has shown signs of attrition. Some of it has been in the dramatic defection of eminent members, including former East African Community secretary-general Juma Mwapachu who recently handed in his party card on Nyerere Day, accusing the party of betraying the ideals of the Founding Father. The more significant attrition, however, is of “smaller” people moving in bigger waves.
In 2005 Kikwete won the presidency with 80.2 per cent, with the leading opposition candidate garnering a miserly 11.7 per cent. At the last election, however, Kikwete’s tally dropped by almost four million votes to 63 per cent, while Wilbroad Slaa, more than doubled the opposition vote to 26 per cent.
Although CCM’s seats in Parliament dropped to 186 (out of 239) in 2010, from 206 (out of 232 directly elected seats) in 2005, such is the party’s entrenchment that it had almost half as many seats unopposed (17) as Chadema, the opposition party, won, 23.
Still, if CCM’s loss of support were to follow a linear path, its candidate could come in with about 46 per cent of the vote, possibly enough to carry Mr Magufuli across the line in Tanzania’s first-past-the-post system, but too close for comfort.
The restive Zanzibar Islands could be a bellwether for CCM’s wider political fortunes. In the last election, its candidate, Ali Shein beat the opposition CUF’s candidate Seif Sharif Hamad to the presidency there by only 3,471 votes. There is even less daylight between the two parties as voting kicks off.
Calling the election has been difficult after the government passed a law that potentially criminalised the publication of unofficial statistics, including opinion polls. However, the election is likely to turn on three key issues.
First is voter turnout. Only 42.8 per cent of the voters turned out to vote in the last election, meaning that President Kikwete’s 5.3 million votes were just over a quarter of the total number of registered voters in the country. Apathy rewards incumbents and the opposition will have to get out the vote if it is to stand a chance against the entrenched ruling party.
Secondly, the result will depend a lot on demographics and voter patterns. More than half of all voters live in just nine of the country’s 30 regions, following Tanzania’s pattern of settlement to the north near the in-land lakes, and along the eastern seaboard. Dar es Salaam leads these super blocs with 2.7 million votes.
Magufuli’s home region of Mwanza (1.4 million) has 400,000 more voters than Lowassa’s Arusha but, in addition to Dar, the battle will be over Mbeya (1.39 million voters), Morogoro (1.27 million) and the quartet of Tabora, Tanga, Dodoma and Kagera with about a million voters each.
In addition, the youth, women and rural vote will be key. CCM’s Makamba has accused Lowassa of running a “helicopter campaign” based around large rallies and the opposition of being “primarily a movement of the cities” while boasting that the ruling party enjoys entrenched grassroots support in rural area and that its Women’s Wing has more registered members than Chadema does in total.
There is some truth in the claims as is the real power of incumbency and the patronage that inevitably arises. A European Union report on the last election noted: “The control exerted by the Union government at grass-roots level through the placement of party cadres in key positions in the national administrative structure — all the way down to the so-called “ten-households cells”— allows it to influence practically all social and political activities throughout the country, thereby fostering a system where advantages can be awarded in exchange for political loyalty.”
The impact of this entrenchment, as well as the possibility of a swing vote that has swept ruling parties, from Zambia to Nigeria, out of power cannot be tested until after the votes have been cast and counted.
Which raises the third issue, the integrity of the election. The opposition has accused CCM of rigging previous elections and a sticking point in this election has been its insistence to its supporters to remain at polling stations until polls close and all votes are counted, to stop fiddling.
The National Electoral Commission have warned against the idea and the High Court on Friday afternoon ruled against the opposition in the matter. This is unlikely to stop youth groups from both sides from staying close to the polling stations, heightening the risk of clashes among rival groups or with the police who have issued a directive against such gatherings.
Acceptance of the result will depend a lot on perception. Election disputes in Tanzania are heard, not by the courts, but by the Electoral Commission, which is appointed by the president, without parliamentary approval.
While there is nothing in the conduct of the election so far that has raised questions about the professionalism and impartiality of the NEC, an election observer told The EastAfrican, “it could be problematic if there was a dispute and the organiser of the process had to be the arbiter. We just hope it is a smooth process and everyone agrees with the outcome.”
In its monitoring report of the last election, the European Union observer mission noted: “The fact that election commissioners both in the Mainland and Zanzibar are presidential appointees and other electoral officials at lower levels are civil servants, raised concerns among stakeholders and in some cases led to doubts about the impartiality of the electoral administration. Further, the NEC and the [Zanzibar Electoral Commission] enjoy far-reaching executive powers of decision-making outside the scrutiny of the judiciary, therefore undermining the original competence and supervisory role of judicial authorities over all administrative management body decisions.”
Tanzania is one of the most peaceful countries on the continent — part of the legacy that Nyerere bequeathed the country.
As the country goes to the polls on Sunday, its Founding Father will be watching from the framed photographs hanging in many homes, shops and offices – and those in the party he led for so long will hope that the result does not leave him turning in his grave.
Part of that legacy is that there will be a change of guard in Tanzania by the end of the year. This, however, could be the first election that delivers a fundamental change of ruling political party.
Those running the party he led for so long will hope that the result is not a CCM loss, which would leave him turning in his grave. There is no pressure. It is not like Mwalimu is watching them from framed photographs in homes, offices, businesses and even makeshift restaurants. Or is he?
Source: The East African