12 August 2009

Tanzania: Poll Report Spells Doom for Kikwete, Say Critics

The results of the latest opinion poll do not augur well for President Jakaya Kikwete, his government and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, some experts and politicians warned yesterday.

Commenting on the poll conducted by a research company, Synovate, and whose report was released in Dar es Salaam on Monday, they said the most remarkable finding was the sharp decline in the President's popularity.

Whereas he was elected to Parliament with an overwhelming majority of 80 per cent of the votes in 2005, the recent survey placed his popularity at only 66 per cent.

In separate interviews with The Citizen, the commentators said that to blame were institutions, which were expected to deliver the CCM campaign promises. Also under fire are officials appointed by President Kikwete to serve in various positions.

The Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) deputy secretary general, Mr Zitto Kabwe, welcomed the opinion poll "as an important ingredient in our democracy".

The Kigoma North MP said polls reflected the people's perceptions of their leaders and their stand on issues of concern to them.

"With President Kikwete's 66 per cent popularity rating, I'm confident that the opposition will end the two-thirds majority, which CCM has enjoyed in the last two decades since the re-introduction of multiparty politics and we could end up dominating Parliament after 2010," he added.

The survey, the MP said, had given the strongest indication so far that a year before the General Election, President Kikwete's popularity "has plunged significantly".

He said the opinion polling was carried out (June 9 and 17) before the Budget Session debated the skewed allocation of funds for road construction to the various regions, and the Richmond and Kiwira scandals, putting the Government on the spot.

"If another survey were to be done today, President Kikwete would most likely get between 55 and 60 per cent. If he got 80 per cent in 2005, and the CCM won got 69 per cent of the parliamentary seats, getting 66 per cent in 2010, would mean that his party will have only 55 per cent of the more than 300MPs," Mr Kabwe said.

It was a pity, he said, that there not enough groups carrying out opinion polling on the situation in the country. "Even within our political parties we do not carry out surveys on people's perceptions on our policies," he said.

Mr Kabwe challenged more young people to contest parliamentary seats on opposition tickets in 2010, arguing that the serious political reforms carried out through the National Assembly had been achieved by a small group of opposition members.

According to the Synovate poll, President Jakaya Kikwete remains the most popular politician with 66 per cent approval, followed by Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe, with 11 per cent. Mr Mbowe also came second in the 2005 elections.

The Civic United Front (CUF) chairman, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, got nine per cent and the same third position he attained in the last elections. United Democratic Party (UDP) leader John Cheyo and the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), Mr Augustine Mrema, had one per cent each.

Contacted for comment, CCM secretary general Yusuph Makamba sarcastically said that he had nothing to say, as he is not a researcher.

But CCM publicity secretary John Chiligati said he was happy with the opinion poll. "The most important thing is that Tanzanians still have faith in President Kikwete,"he said.

Mr Chiligati said such polls tended to fluctuate every now and again. He was sure that Mr Kikwete would secure between 70 and 80 per cent of the votes in next year's elections.

A political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Mr Bashiru Ally, warned that such findings should not be judged as conclusive.

"Such polls might be influenced by a number of factors. For instance, President Kikwete is in power and has all the machinery. How can you compare him with Freeman Mbowe whose party's success is only winning the Tarime by-election and gaining support in Busanda and Biharamulo constituencies?"he asked.

However, he warned that the ongoing internal strife would hurt the party and its government.

A senior law lecturer also at UDSM, Dr Sengodo Mvungi, took issue with the opinion poll for showing that the people had confidence the Head of State while blaming those he has appointed to high offices.

"How do you blame the ministers, permanent secretaries for poor performance and dissociate them from the one who appointed them?" he asked.

Mr Audax Kweyamba, who also teaches in the political science at UDSM, said: "It's true that President Kikwete is popular because our politics still focuses on individuals."

He added: "No matter how positively they portray the President, he is the one to blame for his subordinates' weaknesses as they don't have a contract with citizens," said Mr Kweyamba.

Tanzania's image, the university don said, had been tarnished overseas by the Zanzibar political impasse, "which must be solved before the coming elections" to stem chaos.

Mr Ismail Jussa, a special assistant to Civic United Front (CUF) secretary general Seif Sharif Hamad, warned CCM to prepare for the worst.

Mr Jussa told The Citizen the situation had began to change after his party launched its "Operation Zinduka" last month.

"The opinion poll was conducted before we launched our operation. Things would not be the same if the study was to be conducted today," the CUF official said.

NCCR-Maguzi secretary general Sam Ruhuza said the sample of 1,847 people didn't provide the real picture of the country.

Another UDSM lecturer, Mr John Jingu, doubted that significant changes could be made, citing the lack of integrity right from the grassroots to the top leaders.

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