CCM with its difficulties on political renewal

What you need to know:

  • The political culture within CCM is rarely based on meritocracy. Party members make their choices after the party’s top organs have had their say

Mwananchi newspaper ran a story titled “Vita ya vigogo CCM hapatoshi”, about the ongoing political intrigues within the ruling party, as it enters a final stretch in its intra-party elections. The story covered, in depth, the many names vying for different positions within the party in different parts of the country. The story presented a picture of a political showdown among CCM’s political bigwigs.

A few things come to mind. The political culture within CCM is rarely based on meritocracy. Party members make their choices after the party’s top organs have had their say. In short, even though the final decision makers within the party are, theoretically party members through party congress that does not reflect the political realities. Political deals have to be struck behind the scenes for any line up to emerge out of the party’s final decision making organs.

Some of the names running for political positions have served in various roles in the past, with some of them tainted by allegations of corruption and financial improprieties. Some have been out of any elective office for years and are seeking a way back into the fold. Some can hardly point to anything tangible in their long political careers but have thrown their proverbial hats in the ring to offer their services to their party and the public in general. Some of these candidates are serving in other capacities in government but know for sure that their political safety net is not in the government where you can be ejected any moment, out into the cold.

This lubricates the political machinery of the party but does not prevent it from rusting.

CCM has a poor record of political renewal

While it has an enviable record of intra-party elections where, from time to time, some new faces emerge, this rarely happens without the blessing of the power brokers and real decision makers. The party does not provide much room for political spontaneity. In this regard, even the names of those who make it to elective offices through it are rarely about party’s renewal. It is either about survival as has been the case with its pick of presidential candidates or maintaining party discipline with its spitting of some troublesome MPs through its party primaries where some of those who caused a lot of headaches for their government in parliament find themselves easily defeated in party primaries or even where they have won do not make it through the political furnace of party decision makers in Dodoma.

Those who learn their lessons, are politically ‘rehabilitated’ and can make a political comeback after some years in the political wilderness. Some of the names running this time around are hoping for this eventuality; that the big political tent that is CCM has a space for them.

This is such a contradiction. One would expect such a broad-based political church will be more flexible at its core but that is not how CCM operates. The candidates for various positions within the party are diverse but do not inspire a sense of party renewal. It is more like a feeling of things changing but remaining the same.

This has come to be true of CCM’s competitors too. Many opposition parties rarely let go off their political stars. While they allow political spontaneity, that is just to a degree. From this end, CCM has succeeded in assimilating politically certain parts of the political culture of its competitors for the worse.

There is little excitement in the latest political theatre within CCM. Few expect the outcome to lead to any major changes. After all, the candidates have different political motives of offering themselves for the positions they are asking party voters to pick them instead of their opponents.

The outcome in some of these races will make headlines for sure depending on the names of the candidate who wins or loses. However, that will have no bearing on party’s renewal but rather on whether that particular candidate has been ‘rehabilitated’, maintained his political clout, their political stock within the party is rising or is pushed to the side lines with political defeat.

In a different political setting, where party processes are more transparent, chances are that the names making headlines about their future political prospects might not have made it this far.

Some of those who fell on the sideways before their names could even be considered, might have had a far better chances of getting elected. It is difficult to renew anything without loosening one’s grip.