Tanzanian elections and democratic challenges

By Jonas Ewald

Tanzania is holding national and legislative elections on the 31st of October. Although significant steps have been made towards a consolidation of democracy, a number of challenges for the democratisation process remain.

Following a regional pattern, the ruling party is institutionalised and has a well elaborated organisation. However, CCM is also dominant thanks to better access to information and state resources. In addition, the constitution is an amended one-party system constitution with a number of clauses infringing on the civil and political rights.

The opposition is weak, divided and have so far not been able to form a strong enough challenge to CCM. Two of the opposition parties, CUF and CHADEMA, have gradually become more institutionalised, yet the playing field is still uneven. The question is if CCM can maintain its legitimacy, in a context where poverty remains widespread and deep – and if the opposition can develop a credible alternative.

The situation in Zanzibar continues to be tense. An important step in the peace process was the referendum in July, where a majority voted in favour of the formation of a Government of National Unity after the general elections. It was the first “free and fair” elections ever held on Zanzibar. Hopefully the upcoming election will be conducted in a similar way and consolidate the MUAFAKA, the peace agreement.

‘Tanzania in transition – from Nyerere to Mkapa’ analyses the transitions in Tanzania from 1995-2005 with reference to the framework of development promoted by the former president Julius Nyerere (1961- 1985). Benjamin Mkapa's presidency is important because it represents the first phase of Tanzania's multi-party political system (1995-2005). Although Mkapa's crusade against corruption lost direction, his presidency was characterised by relatively high growth rates and a stable macro-economy. Rural and agrarian transitions were dominated by diversification rather than productivity growth and transformation.

The transitions documented and analysed with focus on Mkapa's presidency, however, indicate only limited transformational change. Poverty is therefore likely to remain deep and sustainable economic development to be at risk in the future. Moreover, there were important challenges to the first multiparty elections and governance, and particularly in Zanzibar. The incumbent president, Jakaya Kikwete, has yet to prove that he can change this legacy of Mkapa.

East Africa
Jonas Ewald
Political development
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