Can CCM sustain stranglehold on power?

An opposition political rally in Tanzania. Photo | FILE | AFRICAREVIEW 

Tanzania’s fourth multiparty elections were, in some ways, not significantly different from the first three, held in 1995, 2000 and 2005.

Just like before, the long-time ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), emerged the decisive winner.

Despite similarities, this election was also radically different from those held in 2000 and 2005, to the extent that the leading opposition party - the Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) – made great political strides.

As Jenerali Ulimwengu noted recently in the regional weekly, The East African, given that the opposition parties won in more than 50 constituencies and that the leading opposition candidate, Dr Wilbrod Slaa, managed to “reinvigorate” an otherwise waning opposition party and change the political landscapes throughout many of the country’s urban areas, this election, when compared to the previous two, has illuminated the possible limits of the CCM’s capacity to comfortably and continuously dominate elections.

To be sure, some additional developments, born out during this election, can be read as signpost of more competitive politics in future

The youth vote

The first development is the growing significance of the youth vote, which seems less loyal to the CCM. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, young people up to the age of 40, account for approximately 68 per cent of the voting age population.

Only 18 per cent of the voters are old enough to recall the euphoria of independence in 1961, brought about by the CCM’s antecedent parties, the Tanganyika African National Union and the Afro Shirazi Party.

The battle over the more liberal youth vote will certainly define the campaign themes of the 2015 election, where the CCM will face the added disadvantage of having to deal with an internal power struggle over President Jakaya Kikwete’s succession.

Secondly, is the increased access to internet, and social media particularly. The Jamii Forums, Facebook and Twitter have grown into some of the more vibrant hotspots for exchanging political views and information. And this widening social media sphere has proven to be a world far more sympathetic to the opposition, especially Chadema.

More tech savvy

As clearly reflected in a Mwananchi online pre-election poll – where respondents favoured Dr Slaa by a 60 per cent margin over President Jakaya Kikwete – participation on the internet is overwhelmingly dominated by opposition supporters. This is probably a reflection of the fact that young people are generally more tech savvy and also more likely to back an opposition party

Moreover, folks with professional backgrounds, living in urban areas, are both more likely to have internet access and more likely to back an opposition party.

Finally, this election might also illustrate the willingness of some economic elites to shift their political loyalties away from the CCM. As the CCM’s ability to win elections become less certain, commercial elites will undoubtedly try to hedge their bets by diversifying their political networks.

This could explain the July, 2010 decision by Mustafa Jaffar Sabodo, a prominent business tycoon, to donate some $66,800 to Chadema'a coffers yet still proclaim his loyalty to the CCM.


-Dr Richard Whitehead holds a Ph.D. in comparative politics and has extensively researched political parties and elections in East Africa.

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