Tanzania: Towards 2020 General Elections

TODAY'S article is a continuation of the series of articles on the general subject of elections; which are intended to cover the various aspects of the multiple issues relating to the subject of elections, this being our general election year.

In the last article, we ended with the point that "multi-party democracy requires a strong opposition", by quoting the words of former President Benjamin Mkapa, when he said that "If we do not have serious political competition between comparable teams, we will slowly degenerate into political frivolity".

In today's article we will examine this particular aspect, namely, the prospect of having "comparative teams" competing in this year's general election.

Some lessons from our electoral history

The possibility of having two "comparative teams competing in the election" appeared, for the first time in the history of Tanzania's multi-party elections, in the results of the Presidential election of 2015 when, out of a grand total of 15,193,862 votes, the CCM candidate, Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli obtained 8,882,935 votes, equivalent to 58.46%; while the CHADEMA candidate, Edward Ngoyai Lowassa, obtained 6,072,848 votes, equivalent to 39.97%. A total of eight political parties participated in that election.

However, the results in the Parliamentary election in 264 constituencies provided a very different picture, in the sense that CCM obtained 73.86 of the votes, equivalent to 195 Parliamentary seats; while CHADEMA, the main Opposition party, obtained only 13.26%, equivalent to 35 seats.

The holding of multi-party elections in Tanzania commenced in 1995; in which four political parties participated in the Presidential election. These were: CCM; CUF; NCCR-MAGEUZI; and UDP. The CCM candidate scored 61.8%; followed by NCCR-MAGEUZI, which obtained 27.8% The remaining two parties scored as follows: UDP= 6.4% , CUF =4.0%.

In subsequent Presidential elections thereafter; CCM kept gaining ground as follows: In the 2000 Presidential election, CCM scored 71. 8%; and in the 2005 Presidential election; CCM scored a record high of 80.2%.

And in the Parliamentary elections, CCM started in 1995 with a handsome harvest of 80.2% of all the Parliamentary seats. But even in the seemingly difficult 2015 general elections, CCM still obtained 195 constituency seats out of a total 264 such seats; which was equivalent to 73.86%..

What do these facts reveal?

In my humble opinion, they reveal the basic fact that in reality, the results of the 2015 Presidential election do not represent the normal position regarding the electoral strength of the Opposition CHADEMA party, which at that time appeared to be a "comparable team" to CCM.

Based on my own personal experience of CCM, I can submit that CCM's dismal performance in the 2015 Presidential election, was facilitated by two adverse factors, namely: (i) the 'self-inflicted injuries' that CCM had unwittingly inflicted upon itself during that period; and (ii) the resulting windfall gains that flowed out of CCM into CHADEMA's establishment.

The "self-inflicted injuries" were, primarily, the lack of fairness in the selection process for Parliamentary candidates by the CCM National Executive Committee (NEC). That organ was (rightly) accused of having abandoned the principle of fairness in its final selection process at that level. Their wanton, undemocratic action, led to many electable aspirants to defect to CHADEMA, because they were forced to find a new base from which they could proceed to achieve their valid ambition to enter Parliament.

Thus, because of their personal popularity in their respective constituencies; they succeeded, and got elected to Parliament on the CHADEMA tickets.

This is what gave CHADEMA the windfall gains, that gave it the numbers required for it to form the official Opposition in Parliament; plus being awarded the title of "Chama Kikuu cha Upinzani".

And indeed, this was not the first time that CCM had unjustly rejected electable candidates in its selection process. There are numerous past examples that can be cited to prove this contention; starting with that of Dr Wilbrod Slaa, a CCM aspirant who had won a majority of the CCM preferential votes in the Karatu constituency during the first multi-party Parliamentary elections in 1995; but was unfairly denied nomination.

He immediately defected to CHADEMA, and easily won that election in the said constituency. There have been many more such examples of unfairness in the nomination process thereafter, as revealed by the complaints voiced by the affected candidates.

That is what must have prompted the current CCM Chairman, President John Pombe Magufuli, to introduce the new, transparent procedures of broadcasting live the entire CCM nomination process for this year's general elections.

His new "style" of leadership has replaced the previous secretive process, which provided space for 'gerrymandering' in the nomination process. Kudos to Chairman Magufuli for introducing these welcome changes.

The influx of aspirants seeking CCM nomination.

We will now examine the unusual, unprecedented spectacle of huge numbers of aspirants in this year's Parliamentary elections applying to be considered by CCM which, in last week's article, we promised to investigate.

It was publicly stated by President Magufuli himself, that a total of 10, 321 aspirants had submitted their application forms for all the constituencies country wide. What could be the reasons for this influx (mafuriko)?

Many of the aspirants stated publicly, that it is "their love for CCM, its top leadership, and his sterling performance in solving the country's problems that had attracted them, with the aim of securing this leadership position which would enable them to participate directly in these magnificent endeavours to enhance the people's welfare and wellbeing".

Their declared noble intentions are most probably true, and may indeed be the main reason for this wave of defections to CCM; which therefore shows the great amount of confidence and satisfaction that many people have in President Magufuli's leadership; plus the additional confidence that once an aspirant is selected by CCM, his success at the polls is almost assured.

However beyond that, there must certainly be some other (hidden) personal reasons that normally attract people to vie for Parliamentary seats. The main one is the substantial perks associated with the membership of Parliament.

The other is the desire to seek a more secure employment, which is offered by the membership of Parliament, which is accompanied by the acquisition of an enhanced social status within the society (Mheshimiwa).

This, presumably, is what explains why some of the Presidential appointees, who fear that their service may be terminated at any time without notice, have joined the race in the Parliamentary elections. They are obviously motivated by the desire to seek greater security of employment as members of Parliament, whose tenure is guaranteed for at least five years.

The prospect of having 'comparative teams'.

We are now heading towards the 2020 general elections to be held on Wednesday, 28th October, 2020. So, what are the prospects for having 'comparative teams' competing in these elections?

We have already seen that in the 2015 Parliamentary elections, the winning party CCM secured 195 seats; with CHADEMA in the second place , having obtained 35 seats. (CUF got into the third place with 32 seats; while ACT-WAZALENDO and NCCR-MAGEUZI, secured only 1 seat each).

In the light of the significant changes and realignments which have taken place in the intervening five years; it would be fair and reasonable for the public to expect similar changes in the performance of the respective parties in this year's general election.

For example, CHADEMA has already lost its leading position in Parliament and status of being 'Chama Kikuu cha Upinzani'; after so many of its MPs defected to CCM and to some other political parties during this period. CUF has also lost many of its Parliamentarians, who defected to other political parties; whereas ACT- Wazalendo, and NCCR-MAGEUZI, have gained a significant measure of new strength, as a result of receiving many defectors from other Opposition parties.

Thus, there is no doubt that an entirely new political landscape has been created, largely facilitated by two distinct factors. One is the multiplicity of defections described above; but the other and more important factor, is President Magufuli's sterling performance in managing the affairs of the nation, which has garnered unprecedented public support, not only for him personally, but also for his political party CCM.

In the circumstances of this new political landscape, it becomes extremely difficult to even guess what results the forthcoming general election will produce, particularly in respect of the Opposition parties.

But, even in the most unlikely event of these permutations and combinations producing a "team of comparative strength" to compete with CCM in this year's general elections; yet, because of the powerful 'Magufuli factor' mentioned above, the Ruling party is firmly guaranteed to win these elections quite comfortably at all levels.

The above mentioned 'Magufuli factor', reminds me of the old Madisonian view, that is to be found in American Political Science literature, which is expressed in the following terms:- "The aim of every political system is, or ought to be, first, to obtain as rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous while they continue to hold the public trust".

In that connection, I humbly submit that CCM can be justifiably credited for having found John Pombe Magufuli as Tanzania's Ruler, for he appears "to possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good for Tanzania's society". And that is precisely what creates the confidence that CCM is guaranteed to win this year's general elections.

Hence, the prospect of having a "comparable team" to compete with CCM in these general elections is, clearly, still far beyond the horizon. All that can reasonably be expected, is only the probability of having a different official opposition party, other than CHADEMA, inside Parliament.

And regarding this point, I should emphasize that it is of vital importance for the Opposition parties, to appreciate the Official Opposition's positive role, as well as its vital contribution, in the successful operations of the multi-party Parliament. We will return to this important point in next week's article

Many voters will vote for Magufuli.

We have referred above to the lessons that should be learnt from the country's past electoral history. One such important lesson is in respect of the voting pattern, which strongly indicates that despite the general call to the voters to "vote for the party with the best policies", our voting history shows a totally different picture; namely that voters in Tanzania are more inclined to vote for the individual person, and not for the political party.

This is evidenced by several examples, such as that of the 2015 defectors, who decamped at the last moment from CCM to CHADEMA, and easily got elected to Parliament on the CHADEMA tickets; plus that of Presidential candidate Edward Lowassa, whose last minute arrival in CHADEMA suddenly gave that party some totally unprecedented new electoral strength, that became nearly comparable to that of CCM. These examples show that the voters were obviously voting for the respective individuals, and, consequently, the relevant political party became the beneficiary.

It is thus reasonable to expect that CCM will similarly benefit from the huge majority of voters who will vote for Magufuli in this year's general election.

(Will continue next week).

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.

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