Discussing Tanzania’s elections – my presentation to the APPG-Tz and the Britain Tanzania Society

coverI was lucky enough to be invited to speak last week in the Houses of Parliament, about Tanzania’s forthcoming elections. The meeting was organised by the UK parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tanzania and the Britain-Tanzania Society.

Also speaking was Aikande Kwayu, who has posted a summary of her excellent talk online. In the same spirit, my full set of slides is at the end of this post. But first, here are my notes:

Part 1 – Context – the big trends / issues that will affect the election

1. Economics

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  • At current rates of economic growth, Tanzania will soon be officially a middle-income country
  • Aid now plays a much smaller part in Tanzanian economy and government budget than at any time in the past 30 years – it is getting towards 10% of public spending, down from 40% 10-15 years ago
  • Nevertheless, poverty remains stubbornly fixed – much of the growth has accrued to a small elite: the four richest people in Tanzania have as much wealth as the poorest 30m.
  • Gas is talked about by some as a game changer – and at first glance the projections can look very promising. But these revenues are estimated as only around 5-10% of government revenues, or roughly $30-40 per person per year. Tanzania is not about to become Saudi Arabia. Similarly, revenues at this level are not expected until around 2025 at least.

2. Demographics

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  • Population is now around 50m, expected to double by 2040, and to rise to 275m by 2100 (UN projection)
  • Young people – almost half the current population is below voting age, almost half the voting-age population is under 30
  • Jobs – a lot of pressure. One recent graduate recruitment exercise for 70 posts in the Immigration Department reportedly called over 10,000 applicants for interviews, which were held at the national stadium.

3. Corruption and political space

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  • When asked, Tanzanians are almost unanimous that corruption is worse today than ten years ago
  • Similarly, they are very pessimistic about whether anything can be done about this
  • Arguably, it has become accepted that corruption is part of how government (and other bodies) operates – hence “corruption is now a right”
  • Nyerere retains a strong presence – not so much for his economic policies as for his personal integrity – a (perhaps impossible) model against which all others are judged
  • Overall long-term trend is towards greater freedom for political expression, but not a smooth progression. Media laws remain very restrictive for newspapers – several papers have been suspended in the last few years – and the recent Cybercrime Act reduces space for online debate.
  • These restrictions, along with some political statements from government leaders, create a strong sense among the opposition that the playing field is not level.

4. Constitution

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  • The process to enact a new constitution has currently stalled. It is impossible to predict with any confidence what will happen after the elections.
  • The process leaves a difficult legacy, with the public on the mainland divided roughly equally between support for two different models, and with strong support on Zanzibar for the three-government proposal that was later withdrawn.

5. Citizens’ views (election related)

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  • There is pessimism about the direction the country is heading in – a desire for change?
  • Public services are the public’s biggest concern
  • And people want to hear policies from candidates for public office

Part 2 – The election campaigns

1. CCM and John Magufuli

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  • After an internal nomination process in which 42 CCM members put themselves forward to be the party’s presidential candidate, the party chose John Magufuli, currently Minister of Works
  • The process was highly controversial, in particular the manner in which Edward Lowassa, who had been considered by many to be the front-runner, was manoeuvred out.
  • Magufuli in contrast was seen as an outside chance for the post – not even considered worthy of inclusion among the 11 aspirants chosen for this cartoon.
  • Lowassa and Magufuli were polar opposites in their campaigns to win the CCM nomination – Lowassa ran an expensive, high profile campaign that seemed to be designed to demonstrate his public popularity. Magufuli barely even had a public “campaign”, and kept the process very quiet and low profile.
  • Nevertheless, Magufuli brings a popular reputation as someone who gets things done, and as relatively free of corruption allegations
  • Further, CCM have a formidable campaign machine, as the line up of past, present (and possibly future) presidents shows.

2. Ukawa and Edward Lowassa

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  • The formation of Ukawa as a coalition of four opposition parties during the constitutional review process appears to have held firm. It includes the two most significant opposition parties of recent years – Chadema and CUF.
  • After his rejection by CCM, Edward Lowassa swiftly moved to join Chadema, and was immediately nominated by the party as their presidential candidate. The other Ukawa member parties will not put up their own candidates, but will campaign for Lowassa.
  • Lowassa’s move was a surprise to many – as a former Prime Minister and CCM stalwart, and as a sworn enemy of many in Ukawa (Chadema in particular)
  • Lowassa is seen by some as the personification of grand corruption – ufisadi. In the past, Chadema had portrayed him as such. This largely stemmed from the Richmond scandal, which led him to resign as Prime Minister in 2008. However, his supporters claim he was a scapegoat for Richmond and has never been brought before a court, so must be considered innocent.
  • And Lowassa’s supporters are apparently many. In rallies all across the country, he is said to be drawing huge crowds, attracted by a combination of his reputation for getting things done and opposition to CCM.

3. Impacts of Lowassa’s defection

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  • While running for the CCM presidential nomination, it looked like Lowassa could cause a major split in the party. When he was excluded the party largely held together.
  • And in joining Chadema, Lowassa has caused ructions within the opposition. Fomer Chadema presidential candidate (and the expected Ukawa candidate for 2015), Wilibrord Slaa announced he was not willing to campaign for Lowassa. He and former CUF mainland chairman (and former presidential candidate) Prof Ibrahim Lipumba have both stepped back from front line politics, significantly weakening the Ukawa team.
  • Coupled with the loss of Zitto Kabwe from Chadema (to a new party, ACT-Wazalendo), the loss of Slaa and Lipumba now means that the “unified opposition” idea (which partly motivated the formation of Ukawa) is struggling.
  • Lowassa also took with him some CCM members, including a handful of prominent figures – most notably another former CCM Prime Minister, Frederick Sumaye. Beyond a few prominent figures, however, it is impossible to know how many rank-and-file CCM supporters followed Lowassa to Ukawa.
  • Similarly, beyond the loss of Slaa and Lipumba, it is hard to know how many Chadema / Ukawa supporters have lost support for their party / coalition as a result of Lowassa’s move.

4. The campaign

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  • Perhaps as a result of the widespread dissatisfaction with the country’s overall direction, both CCM/Magufuli and Ukawa/Lowassa are campaigning on the platform of “change”. This is despite one of them representing a party that has effectively been in power for over 50 years, and the other being a candidate who was himself a very prominent figure in government for most of the past 20 years. One is 62 years old (Lowassa), the other is 55.
  • Campaign rallies have been more notable for the projects being promised than for manifestos, policies or overarching vision – tarmac roads, water projects, new hospitals, new factories.
  • Agriculture and education have also been prominent issues. In agriculture, this largely translates as promises to raise prices for everything from cashew nuts to tobacco, and/or to build factories to process products. In education, Lowassa echoed Tony Blair’s famous “education, education, education” slogan, and promises free education from primary school through to university.
  • There is little on how these promises are to be paid for. Some refer vaguely to gas revenues, though major revenues are not projected until well after 2020 at least. Others talk about using money saved by clamping down on corruption, though neither CCM nor Ukawa give convincing detail on how corruption will be reduced.
  • It is almost impossible to place the two major campaigns on a left-right political spectrum, though in the past Chadema has been centre-right and CCM centre-left. This year, in both cases, the parties are drawing on a wide pool of policies and rhetoric from both left and right. Promises of price controls and of government support for industry and nationalisation are widespread – from both sides. And both sides have been talking of reducing taxes.
  • The campaigns involve heavy mud-slinging – accusations of corruption, insults, accusations of association with “terrorists”, posting of forged documents online, etc. This is happening on both sides.

5. The battle metaphor

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  • In monitoring the major newspapers for their political cartoons, one metaphor stands out above all others: the battle. There is a view that this election represents a choice between a heavyweight candidate, in Lowassa, and a heavyweight party, in CCM.
  • Competitive elections are potentially a very strong form of accountability, but they can also represent risk. Tanzania has never experienced widespread election-related violence, and there are very good reasons to believe that the country’s political institutions are strong enough to ensure that this record is maintained. However, this year’s election will test this more than ever before. Both sides genuinely believe they are going to win.

And finally, the points I should have made but didn’t, or should have had answers to but didn’t

  • ACT-Wazalendo is a new party with Zitto Kabwe as leader and Anna Mghwira as presidential candidate. Her chances of winning are low, as this election has come very early in the party’s life. It is a chance to build a platform for the future, and the party is offering a very valuable third voice in political debates, either by the accusations of corruption that follow both Edward Lowassa and CCM.
  • Unfortunately, neither side is really putting the issue of young people and employment at the forefront of their campaign. Lowassa previously gave this issue top priority, when running for the CCM nomination, but since joining Chadema he has given it much less attention. This is a shame, as it is arguably the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the country in the next five-ten years.
  • Previously, Lowassa was seen as CCM’s money man – bringing both his personal wealth and that of his connections to support CCM. It is as yet unclear how his departure has affected CCM’s ability to finance their campaign. And indeed it is unclear how much his move to Chadema / Ukawa has affected Chadema’s finances – there are rumours of the party’s previous backers withdrawing their support, as well as of Lowassa and his friends bankrolling the campaign. In any case, there are signs that both sides are ignoring the terms of the Election Expenses Act, which requires them to declare their sources of funds and to stick to strict campaign spending limits.
  • I was asked, twice, what would happen in the situation where one party (or coalition) wins the presidency but another wins a majority in parliament. I was not in a position to answer the question, but I have been looking into this since the discussion. Expect a blogpost on this in the next few days.

And finally, my slides in downloadable form, with sources and references.


5 thoughts on “Discussing Tanzania’s elections – my presentation to the APPG-Tz and the Britain Tanzania Society

  1. Matt Herrington

    Just wanted to say I find your analysis very insightful and always look forward to your emails. Matt

  2. Pingback: Economic Growth but 275 million people by 2100 | paulbjerk

  3. Pingback: Seminar – Tanzania’s forthcoming general election – September 2015 | Britain Tanzania Society

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