The Ghost of 2015 Still Haunts the Opposition
When the history books are written, the 2015 elections might go down as one of the most consequential elections in Tanzania's history. It is thus far the only election in our young country's history that has had a major impact in the subsequent election cycle.
In 2015 you had for the first time a coalition of the main opposition parties banding together to try to bring down the CCM juggernaut. In 2015 the coalition was UKAWA and it included Chadema, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi and UDP. This time around you have Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo trying to create a new opposition alliance strongly claiming that they have learned the lessons of 2015. We shall call them for the time being ChademAct.
In 2015 you had for the first time a failed presidential candidate for the CCM nomination jump ship and run unopposed for the nomination of an opposition political party. In 2015 Edward was given the nomination by Chadema and in 2015 another failed presidential candidate for the CCM nomination, Mr. Bernard Membe has walked away with the nomination for ACT-Wazalendo unopposed.
I supposed you now see the pattern. Convince a failed candidate for the CCM nomination to join your party and let him win your party's nomination unopposed. Hence it is now on the oppositiomn to convince their base that using the same formula to try and defeat CCM in 2015 will finally yield positive results this time around.
However I am of the belief that the formula used in 2015 will not work and will infact lead to greater vote loss for the opposition and sully any future collaboration amongst them. The condition that made UKAWA semi successful in 2015 do not exist in 2020 and I will explain as follows.
First, in 2005 former President Jakaya Kikwete won the presidency by an outstanding 80.2 percent of the vote. By the 2010 elections he managed 62.8 percent of the vote. For whatever reasons, the electorate felt that the former president did not meet the high expectations they had of him and by 2015 his popularity had vastly waned. This was the case even inside CCM as members of the general assembly showed clear insubordination by chanting the name of Edward Lowassa as he walked into the meeting. This led to the popular Edward Lowassa jumping ship and joining Chadema. In 2020, Magufuli has increased in popularity from 2015 but even as significant is the fact that Bernard Membe has never reached the popularity Edward Lowassa enjoyed in 2015.
Second, unlike his predecessor in 2005, President Magufuli did not ride a wave of popularity in 2015 and managed to secure 58.4 percent of the vote. This has given him an opportunity to surpass expectations and surpass them in my eyes he has. And unlike in 2015, he is not burdened by the fatigue voters had for his predecessor and he will now get the opportunity to stand on his own record. If the opposition do not have a better attack on his record than "maendeleo ya vitu vs. maendeleo ya watu" then they will find themselves having a hard campaign season.
Third, in 2015 ALL the major opposition parties united to run against CCM and they managed 39.9 percent of the vote. It is thus hard to fathom a ChademAct alliance being enough to defeat CCM. No doubt that ACT has grown as a political party but let us be honest, its growth does not stern from eating away from CCM's share but from capturing traditionally CUF strong holds after acquiring Seif Sharif Hamad. No doubt ACT has seen some organic growth countrywide but it would be naive to suggest that the formely CUF members have not vastly contributed to its growth. Thus in terms of votes, the ChademAct alliance would be a coalition of Chadema plus ACT plus a portion of CUF which split from its main party. Indeed ACT has taken a significant number of supporters from Chadema itself. It is yet to be seen if the addition of Bernard Membe will add significant votes from his home regions of Mtwara and Lindi (the South) because I dont recall him ever being a political powerhouse in that region.
Fourth, in 2015, Chadema and UKAWA so a big wave of CCM bigwigs join their movement. It was not only Edward Lowassa but you had other names such as Frederick Sumaye, Bakari Mwapachu. You also had a number of regional and district bosses defect from CCM to join the opposition. That is not happening this time around. Infact, this time around you have more defections from the opposition to CCM. I suppose you can call Bernard Membe a defector from CCM but he had abandoned the party since 2015. How? He lost the nomination, was kept on CCM's national campaign committee but never attended a single campaign event no stumped on behalf of Magufuli. Clearly he never reconciled with the fact that pre-primaries it was he and Lowassa who were favourites for the CCM nomination but he still failed to capture it even after Lowassa's very early exit from the process.
Last but I hope not least is the fact that there is no excitement for the opposition like there was in 2015. In 2015 you could feel it in the air. You could tell that it was going to be a hard fought election. The streets were speaking and I dare say that if it wasn't for CCM nominating a candidate like Magufuli they could have lost or it would have been at least a very close election.
It is quite an ambitious undertaking and credit to the opposition for trying to rekindle the magic of 2015 and hoping that that magic will work a better spell on the voters this time around. I would just caution the opposition with the words of the scientific genius Albert Einstein who famously said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Mine is just an opinion and I could be wrong, time will tell.
Thomas Joel Kibwana.