Dar es Salaam. On Wednesday last week Twaweza released a survey on citizens’ preferences and views on political leadership that showed that about half of the respondents support CCM.
According to the survey 51 per cent of respondents say they would vote for CCM while 23 per cent prefer Chadema.
The opinion poll done through mobile phones also showed that among the three front-runners in presidential elections the first two are CCM candidates; Edward Lowassa (13pc) and Mizengo Pinda (12pc). Wilibrod Slaa came third with 11 per cent.
The poll had two interesting findings. Firstly it showed that 33 per cent, or one in three, citizens have not yet decided on which candidate they would vote for in the upcoming General Election. Secondly it showed declining support to CCM despite its continued dominance and more popular support.
According to the poll, 54 per cent of the citizens surveyed said they would vote for CCM candidates at all levels despite their frustrations at lack of progress in poverty reduction and social service delivery.
This is a decline in support for CCM from 80 per cent in 2005 to 61 per cent in 2010. The fall in support is more pronounced among the younger voters under 35 years whom, according to the survey, only 44 per cent expressed affiliations towards CCM (34 per cent for Chadema) compared to the 35-50 age bracket that supports CCM by 60 per cent (24 per cent for Chadema).
Despite the apparent CCM dominance the undecided voters could change the scales significantly if they decided to support the opposition in the next elections.
And in fact, according to some analysts, the most important revelation of the survey is that the next General Election is a toss-up. CCM does not enjoy the clear lead it used to have and can be defeated if the opposition does its homework.
But as expected the survey caused an outcry and uproar from key stakeholders. Many stakeholders from the academia and the opposition castigated it for “wrongly showing CCM dominance,” amidst clear and widespread public misgivings with the capacity of the ruling party to deliver.
The criticism of the research from the opposition and independent analysts was not surprising and has been part of the trend. Past opinion polls that showed CCM dominance have also been criticized as partial and biased towards the ruling party.
What was different this time was criticism of the opinion poll from some CCM senior cadres, especially those who harbour presidential ambitions but were shown in the survey to receive little or no public support. They pointed out that the poll was flawed and biased towards certain candidates.
Amidst all reactions from stakeholders, however, the poll brought back the question of CCM invincibility.
The Twaweza poll correctly indicated that CCM’s support is declining. But the poll did not indicate if CCM’s loss is opposition’s gain. Did the poll imply that the 33 per cent citizens who are disillusioned with CCM are also disillusioned with the opposition?
What is obvious is that the poll showed that citizens are also generally disillusioned with the political space and their elected representatives. When asked if they were planning to vote back their local MPs, almost half of citizens (47pc) reported that they will not.
“This could in part be because citizens do not think that MPs are keeping their promises,” the Twaweza survey report reads in part.
Reading from the poll it is evident that even as CCM is losing support there is still no credible alternative to draw into that support.
However given the nature of the poll it was difficult to determining how fast the decline of the support for CCM is though the trend shows that in four years between 2010 and 2014 CCM has lost support by 10 per cent.
But it should be noted that only 42 per cent of eligible voters showed up at polling stations in the 2010 General Election. This fact, according to experts, vindicates the fact that despite CCM losing support the opposition does not gain from that loss.
The findings of the poll have shown that despite its dominance CCM is not invincible. The only question is whether there will emerge the opposition strong enough to dislodge the ruling part from power as it happened in neighbouring Kenya, Zambia and Malawi.
Experts have pointed out that CCM’s dominance in Tanzania politics and seemingly failure of the opposition to attract popular support is because of the “strategic failure” of CCM to de-link itself from the state.
Dr Alexander B Makulilo, a Political Scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam says that incomplete reforms during the adoption of the multiparty democracy in Tanzania in the early 1992 meant that CCM remained a “state-party”.
In a paper entitled “Why the CCM is still in power in Tanzania? A Reply” which he published earlier this year Dr Makulilo said even as multiparty democracy was reintroduced in 1992 the playing field remained leveled in favour of CCM at the expense of the opposition. Dr Makulilo’s paper was a reply to an earlier paper entitled “Why the CCM Won’t Lose: The Roots of Single Party Dominance in Tanzania” by Melanie O’Gorman.
In that paper O’Gorman used a surveys in rural areas to show that farmers tend to support CCM despite neglect by the party.
She implied in her paper that CCM would continue to be massively supported because of rural populations’ nostalgia for the ruling party, gratitude for CCM’s maintenance of peace, satisfaction with CCM’s performance rule during one party rule and a sense that CCM is the part that identifies the most with the farmers’ concerns. Dr Makulilo argued to the contrary saying CCM’s dominance is because of the failure of reforms to separate it from the state.
He noted that constitutions created after independence made every effort to ensure that the ruling party was not only the dominant party but also stayed in the pinnacle of power (Chama kushika hatamu).
Concentrating and centralizing power to the President making him the head of state, head of government, head of public service and the commander-in-chief of all armed forces was the final nail in the coffin.
In fact the Constitution gives the President absolute power, most of which is discretionary with no effective safeguards to control the exercise of that power, according to Dr Makulilo.
Because of these powers the President is entitled to nominate the commissioners of the National Electoral Commission, heads of armed forces and judges.
But because the President is also the chairman of CCM this puts all these key institutions under the direct domination of CCM.
The heads of these institutions are obliged to serve the interests of CCM, key among them being its continuing stay in power.
The constitutional amendments that were made to allow multiparty democracy were not enough to change the status quo and made a complete transition from single party to multipartysim difficult, Dr Makulilo says to the extent that in practice Tanzania is still a single party state.
“A mere substitution of a clause in the national constitutions which supported the one party system by a multi-party system did not bring an effective de-coupling of the party from the state,” Dr Makulilo notes.
The public media is also used in favour of CCM as indicated in various surveys despite the fact that their operations are funded by taxpayers. TBC Taifa is still the dominant Radio with countrywide reach but it has been favouring the ruling party during campaigns with CCM candidates getting more airtime than opposition candidates, Dr Makulilo noted.
These facts on Tanzania’s democracy are not new as they have been the subject of research and discussion by academicians and other stakeholders for a long time.
But they serve to show that results of the survey by Twaweza and others that CCM is still the dominant party, are true.
The opposition and other stakeholders denying that fact are playing a political game which could distract them from single-handedly initiating actions and mobilising the people towards demanding true political reforms.