Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Unleveled Playfield and Democracy in Tanzania

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Unleveled Playfield and Democracy in Tanzania

Article excerpt


Tanzania experienced a top down democratic transition. This transition path gave the ruling party monopoly to determine the transition pace, design the rules of the game, as well as to own and benefit out of it. The de-linking of the party from the state of the previous authoritarian regime has yet happened thereby creating uneven playfield for opposition parties to be effective. This article, based on documents, interviews, and newspapers, holds that the landslide victories by the ruling party in the past general elections of 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 were largely attributed to its fusion with the state.

Keywords: Tanzania, Elections, Democracy, Constitution, CCM, State-party

1. Introduction

Tanzania got its independence on 9 December 1961 from British colonialism based on a multiparty system. However, in 1965, this system was changed to a single party system. The Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), then the ruling party, spearheaded the introduction of one party state with the effect of suffocating the political space. Unity was considered by TANU as the rationale for the new political system. During that time, all political activities in Tanzania, apart from those of the organs of the state were conducted by or under the auspices of the party. In 1975 the party became supreme. Article 3(3) of the constitution of the United Republic 1977 provided that all political activities in the country and those of the organs of the state should be conducted by or under the auspices of the party. It was in 1992, following the pressure from within and without Tanzania, that the country adopted multiparty democracy. Though the specific articles referring to the single party system were repealed, the practice has almost remained unchanged.

Since 1992, Tanzania has conducted four general elections in 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) won landslide victory in all the previous elections. The minimum popular support for CCM has stood at 60%, but in 2000 it went up to 71%. It was in 2005 that the party obtained a historical record of popular support of about 80% (NEC 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011). Against that backdrop, this article revisits the law and practice in Tanzania with regard to multiparty democracy. Its core argument is that the ruling party is fused with the state hence militating against the survival and effective operations of opposition parties. The article focuses to understand three key areas namely the rules of the game, media, and security forces.

2. State-Party: A Conceptual Overview

Transition from one party system to multiparty democracy requires first and foremost de-linking of ruling parties from states. This is due to the fact that when a one-party dominant regime is a direct descendant of a party-state system, the properties of this new regime often-times constitute a half-way house between authoritarianism and democracy consequently leading to uneven playing field which militates against the survival of opposition parties (Chu 1999:62). The playing field is considered uneven to the extent that incumbent abuse of the state generates such disparities in access to laws, resources, media, or state institutions that opposition parties' ability to organize and compete for national office is seriously impaired (Levitsky and Way 2010:64). Arguably, the project of consolidating the party-state also needs a takeover of the public sector. While this kind of regime conducts regular multiparty elections at all levels of government, violation of basic democratic standards are done in serious and systematic ways (Schedler 2010:69). And therefore one major problem of the transition is to untangle, both practically and in people's minds, the links which were so carefully forged between the party and the state property, functions and personnel (Huntington 1991:209). The de-linking process usually takes place following the introduction of impartial laws, strong oversight institutions, elite fragmentation, or due to military takeover. …

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