Like most African countries in the immediate post-colonial period, Tanzania became
a one party state within three years of Independence. Even though the party did clearly
become authoritarian, the people of the country never suffered any overt repression
seen in other African dictatorships. In any case, the lack of political plurality
did clearly inflict damage on the society and this has been demonstrated by the feeble
and unconvincing opposition that sprung up after the change of constitution and introduction
of multi-party democracy in 1992.
The ruling party CCM remains entrenched in power despite shocking levels of corruption
at the highest levels of government. In rural areas of Tanzania, many people cannot
distinguish between government and CCM party leaders; that is how psychologically
dominant the party is. The political parties that have sprung up have remained weak,
numerous and divided. Some of the opposition parties have taken a regional and even
an ill-disguised religious flavour, something that is anathema to many Tanzanians.
There therefore appears no immediate threat to CCM’s hegemony at the national level.
People appear to have adopted the stance of “better the devil you know“. Many analysts
believe herein lies the greatest medium and long term danger to Tanzania’s much vaunted
Political Parties in Tanzania
There are 5 parties which have seats in the national parliament. These are:
· Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM): This is the ruling party
· Civic United Front (CUF): largest opposition party
· Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA)
· Tanzania Labour Party (TLP)
· United Democratic Party (UDP)
There are 14 other, much smaller, and arguably insignificant parties. The fate of
NCCR-Mageuzi which was the most vibrant opposition party after the introduction of
multi-party democracy is demonstrative. Many of its bright stars drifted off and
quite a few actually defected to the ruling party where they were rewarded with high
office. This probably did more harm to the opposition than anything that the ruling
party could do. It exposed lack of principle and vision and planted seeds of suspicion
among the electorate that the new opposition leaders are in this for personal gain.
NCCR-Mageuzi won 16 seats in the General election in 1995, three years after it
came into existence. Its presidential candidate Augustino Mrema won a quite respectable
27.7% of the popular vote.
In the last general election in 2005, the NCCR-Mageuzi presidential candidate won
less than 0.5% of the popular vote. The winner, President Jakaya Kikwete of CCM polled
over 80% of the popular vote. In parliament, CCM took 206 seats of the 232 directly
elected members. That is almost 89% of the seats.
The unfamiliarity of political pluralism is evident in every election and particularly
by-elections. People have demonstrated a tendency to take things personally and as
a result bouts of violence have from time to time flared up, some quite serious,
though nowhere near the extent seen in neighbouring Kenya where the issue of ethnic
divide is deep-rooted. This problem is non-existent in Tanzania.
In Zanzibar, which is geographically made up of two islands, Unguja and Pemba, there
is clear political polarisation. CUF has its stronghold in the island of Pemba and
almost all its members of parliament in the national parliament come from there.
CCM is dominant in the island of Unguja.
Former President Nyerere (fourth left)queuing to vote in a general election. The
ordinary people in the queue were his real neighbours in Msasani, Dar es Salaam and
not bussed in for a photo-op. In that, Mwalimu Nyerere was truly a man of the people
but his faith in one-party ‘democracy’ was proved to be fatally-flawed