OPINION: WHY OPPOSITION “GRAND COALITIONS” FAIL IN TANZANIA.

For a while now ACT- Wazalendo & namely Zitto Kabwe, the party’s leader have been pushing for an opposition grand coalition to unite as many opposition political parties as possible against CCM during the upcoming elections. It is important to note that ACT-Wazalendo sat out such a coalition back in 2015 and that the UKAWA coalition failed to capture neither the presidency nor a majority in parliament. Below are the reasons why I think such attempts have failed in the past and will continue to fail in the foreseable future.

A Difference in Philosophy and Principles:

Opposition parties share one goal, which is to defeat the ruling party and take over the helms of the state apparatus. However, that is as far as their common goals go. There is no guiding principle to hold the coalition together past the election season. That is why right after the defeat of UKAWA in 2015, the coalition broke and each party chairman wanted to move forward with their own parties and agenda. There was no guiding principle that would have kept them together beyond the elections of 2015 into 2020. And here again Zitto is advocating for the same mistake, uniting opposition parties for the election season. It is then a great sigh of relief that UKAWA lost in 2015 because chances are if they won then the governing coalition would have had a lot of infighting with many of the parties and key players fighting for control. Suffice to say that even the UKAWA presidential candidate who ran under CHADEMA was he himself not a party man and had just joined the party in order to capitalize on his last opportunity to gain the presidency.

A Struggle for Power:

Such coalitions not based on principle and philosophy tend to have a lot of internal struggle for power, with each key figure wanting to be the head of the movement. In 2015, the selection of Edward Lowasa as the UKAWA candidate caused a lot of friction because key figures such as Dr. Wilbrod Slaa (CHADEMA) and Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba (CUF) had expected to be the torch bearers of UKAWA heading into the general elections. Indeed Dr. Slaa openly criticized the candidacy of Edward Lowasa through UKAWA. Maybe if they had won, these key figures would have held on for a while longer BUT they lost and Dr. Slaa soon afterwards left CHADEMA, retired from politics and was subsequently appointed ambassador by President Magufuli, the same person he expected to face during the 2015 elections. Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba also unceremoniously left his party, retired from politics, only to come back and claim he had never officially handed over his resignation letter, even though he had PUBLICALLY announced his retirement.

The Oppostion is not a Majority:

In order for a grand coalition to work they first need to be assured that together they can garner over 50 percent of the vote. That is what differenciates a governing grand coalition and a simply enlarged minority. Lets us use 2015 as an example. We shall first look at opinion polls then the general election results themselves. An opinion poll by Twaweza conducted between 19th August to 7th September 2015 with a sample size of 1848 showed that 65% were for Magufuli, 25% for Lowasa, 7% undecided and the rest for other candidates. Ipsos conducted a poll between 5-22 September 2015 with a sample size of 1836 and showed that 61.6% were for Magufuli, 30.8% were for Lowasa, 7.3% undecided and the rest for other candidates. The only poll which showed Lowasa with a lead was by TADIP which should be noted was conducted in only 10 regions. Its poll was conducted between 1-21 September with a sample size of 2040 showing 40% were for Magufuli, 54.5% for Lowasa, % undecided and the rest for other candidates. The actual results were 8,882,935 votes casts for Magufuli which was 58.46% and 6,072,848 votes cast for Lowasa which were good enough for 39.97%. Hence UKAWA coalition could only give their candidate less than 40% of the vote and even if they had convinced the other parties to join them it still would not have been enough to claim the presidency. Those results were also reflective of the parliamentary election results where CCM gained 188 directly elected sits (55.04%) and the opposition parties gained 68 sits all together. Perhaps if they had kept the coalition in tact post defeat the numbers would improve with subsequent elections but alas UKAWA died as quickly as it was put together.

“In CCM We Trust”:

This fact is so obvious that it is rarely discussed. That is that a majority of Tanzanians still believe in CCM and that the oppostion have yet to produce a compelling reason for the elecorate to believe otherwise. The opposition knowingly or unknowingly try to portray that they are more popular than CCM. They usually quote not independent polls or surveys but online polls through their own pages and politician internet handles. It is true that oppostion supporters tend to be more vocal online forgeting that their is a “silent majority", a group of people who don’t make a statement through posts or tweets but through the ballot box. These people dont want to hear jargon or rhetoric. They sincerely believe that the opposition is either not sincere or not capable of governing the county. Perhaps instead of trying to setup grand coalitions the opposition should focus more on capturing the hearts and minds of people outside of twittersphere.

The Lack of a Mainstay Main Opposition:

As I was reading through our electoral history I noticed a pattern. More times than not, the life span of the main opposition party in Tanzania is about 10 years with the second largest opposition party subsequently taking over from them. It was first NCCR-MAGEUZI (1993-1999), then CUF (2000-2009) and now CHADEMA (2010-?) Need proof? Let us look at the presidential results of each election since the first multiparty elections in 1995. In 1995 CCM won 61.82% of the vote, NCCR-MAGEUZI 27.77% and CUF 6.43%. In 2000 CCM won 71.74%, CUF 16.26% and NCCR-MAGEUZI 7.80%. In 2005 CCM won 80.28%, CUF 11.68%, CHADEMA 5.88%. Are you seeing a trend? Let’s continue. In 2010 CCM won 62.83%, CHADEMA 27.05% and CUF 8.28%. And finally in 2015 CCM won 58.46%, CHADEMA 39.97% and ACT 0.65%. If the trend holds, after the 2020 general elections, ACT may well be the new main opposition party. The only trend that has not been broken is the dethroning of the CCM juggernaut.

The Power of the Incumbency:

This reason is not entirely the oppositions fault. CCM is the incumbent party and thus holds all the necessary tools to inact its agenda and directly affect the lives of people. It is hard to fight the power of the incumbency without a clear separation of philosophy and approach. I happened to read the CHADEMA election manefesto of 2015 and a lot of the items in their priority list have been achieved by the incumbent government. Indeed that is why we are hearing less and less from the opposition about the actual performance of President Magufuli’s government and more and more of trivial matters. It is no longer about what is being done but how it is being done. For example, in CHADEMA’s 2015 manefesto, they talked about improving infrastructure and reviving ATCL. Both have been done by the current government to a great degree but now the same people have moved to saying that the government is prioritizing things over people. Schools and health facilities have been built in the past five years at a rate never seen before impacting directly the lives of poor Tanzanians but still their are opposition leaders who write to international organisations pleeding with them to deny the Tanzanian government of money aimed at improving schools for poor people because of a difference in policy. Indeed CCM’s strength has been that it has been able to take what is good about opposition ideas and incorporate them into their own policies.

“Kuunga Juhudi”:

Kuunga juhudi or in English supporting the cause. During the past 5 years more and more of the opposition’s very own have been leaving their parties to join the ruling party in support of the president’s efforts. Ofcourse the opposition’s usual stand is that their fellows who have left to join CCM have been bought and paid for. If I was them I would not push this narrative because it farther pushes the notion that opposition leaders are not lead by any guiding principle other than gaining power. Mind you these are the same people who say they are fighting for democracy but for some reason, in their eyes, it is never for democratic reasons that an opposition member leaves to join the ruling party. Also keep in mind that this narrative changes dramatically when it is a member of CCM leaving to join the other side. This interpretation of theirs that it is only democratic and for a good cause when a member of CCM leaves to join their ranks is mind boggling to say the very least.

Finally, Mwalimu Nyerere once said that “True opposition will come from CCM itself" and for the last 27 years or so, CCM has done a great job in conflict resolution within their own party ranks to ensure that in public they speak with one voice and one purpose. I am of the opinion that the opposition will not gain power from what they do but from what CCM will fail to do and so far CCM is doing a great job in not dropping the ball. However, these are my opinions and as democracy dictates, one is free to disagree.

Thomas Joel Kibwana

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Political Enthusiast

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Thomas J. Kibwana

Thomas J. Kibwana

Political Enthusiast

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