Of political rallies and a new constitution

What you need to know:

  • Political rallies will show the country how deep this political support for another process runs within CCM. In the past, it did not take long for CCM leaders to show where they intended the process to end up.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan declared a return to public political rallies. Not that these were completely banned, after all her own political party, CCM has been doing just fine all these years. However, without any recognizable opposition political parties in parliament after the general election in 2020, CCM have had the massive advantage of having the political stage to themselves.

What does this mean for the country? What does it mean for political parties?

The President spoke of the process for a new constitution during the same event, leaving the door open to discussions about what that exactly will mean in practical terms. In this sense, a return to political rallies means the issue will be thrown to the rest of the country for further discussion and gauging the strength and direction of political winds.

These rallies will provide an insight into the positions of different sides in this emotive debate. Whether there is room for compromise on some of the key issues like the structure of the Union and the powers of the President. In previous attempts of writing a new constitution or even amending the current document, these have almost certainly led to unbridged divisions between different sides.

Political rallies will also show whether any lessons have been learnt from previous failed attempts. Agreeing on a starting point may prove to be the easier part of any new process. After all, from previous statements made by some political leaders, the scale has tilted towards forming a team to go through the three documents, and propose a merged version from the three. That is the easy bit, after all, no one wants to go through another time wasting and tax consuming constituent assembly, which will deliver nothing to show for its massive price tag.

Will the country go through parliament, or will any agreed-upon document go through a referendum?

The difficult part will come in finding acceptable members to form whatever team or committee or taskforce. If it is dominated by politicians, then it will be another doomed attempt, after all part of the reason the country is where it is today, is due to its politicians’ ‘their way or my way’ mentality. Each political party has some of its own ‘hardliners’ regarding any new constitution process. How these influence acceptance of members on their team will be another window into the psyche of what or who drives these political parties to come to the negotiation table.

Picking any of the previous documents as they are now will be interpreted as a victory for one part of this difficult process, which is not an auspicious sign for any process that intends to end with a document that is supposed to unite the entire country or, at the very least, be a document in which no single part gets everything on their constitution wish list.

What about political parties? These, especially some opposition parties, have sustained the pressure for a new constitution. Their arguments have largely been the same, but with different political interests and their survival chances, that may lead to changed political calculations. It is no accident that the process is gaining momentum as the country approaches another general election in 2025. For CCM, it will provide them with a credible argument that they have opted to be part of the process, part of the solution for a better country.

Political rallies will show the country how deep this political support for another process runs within CCM. In the past, it did not take long for CCM leaders to show where they intended the process to end up. The party has also recently concluded intra-party elections, which have left many political casualties in some regions. Political rallies will be another test for public displays of loyalty to their party ahead of the general election and party primaries in 2025. 

For opposition parties which are still suspicious of CCM (and of each other) and their real political intentions, political rallies will be a better stage to see whether another political alliance will be possible or each party will make its own pitch to the public. How civil will the public discussions about a new constitution through political rallies be?

There must be goodwill from all those who intend to lead this process this time around. Anything less, and we are headed for another round of frustrations and tears at the end of the road.

That will be bad news for everyone.