Sunday, March 4, 2012

The NEC Meeting: A Fighting Chance Not The Chance To Fight.

Every so often I actually write a complimentary article about the government or the Grand Old Party and the February NEC Meeting provided such an occasion. I submitted a piece to The East African for a planned "special" on the event and... nothing. Nothing the week after than either. Oh well. So this is incredibly not fresh news, but since the piece is written I thought I might as well share it here:

"CCM has finally held its highly-anticipated National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting this month. Although we are not all card-carrying members of the Grand Old Party, there is hardly a Tanzanian living today who does not have a stake in how it conducts itself. The big CCM meetings offer a glimpse into the general mood of the party, and the implications for politics in the country. Watching the flows of power across the various levels of the organization does provide a good insight into what the future might hold.

It has to be said that outside of the more colorful encounters between the state and reformers of all stripes, the Kikwete administration has been consistent in its pursuit of its own vision of a better governance system whether or not we agree with it. And while it has been struggling under the weight of kleptocracy, somehow CCM 2012 is a more open and democratic organization than CCM 2005. It seems that the internal shift of power from one generation to the next, and the shift in attitude that this entails, might be a relatively smooth one and it might even take the party back to its glory days when members felt true ownership.

“The way in which the ruling party has remained legitimately in power by pragmatically adapting to the demands of the time has allowed successive regimes to pursue relatively continuous development objectives throughout a transitional period.”

Generally speaking, the meeting outcomes that CCM announced give hope. Barring incumbent MPs from being members of NEC is an excellent move, especially in light of the overwhelming greed that CCM MPs have displayed. In principle, the less power resides in the hands of CCM MPs the better off we are as a society- at least with this particular intake. Also commendable is the Party's decision to amend its 1977 Constitution, hopefully to bring it into the 21st Century. The decision to select NEC members from Districts is a good way to devolve power away from the center further down towards the grassroots, and arguably gives some measure of control of the party back to its natural constituents: its foot-soldiers and faithful voters.

Finally, the decision to create an advisory council of elders is also welcome. We have hit ten years without Mwalimu's wry wit to guide us, and his legacy has yet to be adapted for a contemporary votership. It has been hard of late to pinpoint where the intellectual and ideological centers of the Party reside. If the GoP has the benefit of the experience of leaders who have made it to retirement age, they should certainly use it. Continuity is important. Besides which, it creates an excellent counterbalance and resource for the incoming generation of leaders who are only just starting to earn their stripes.

CCM's ongoing challenge is to continue to manage the competing political groups that contest its autonomy, ranging from aid donors whose good governance agenda has specific political ramifications to competition from opposition parties, civil society's role as the poor's advocate and watchdog, the welfare and employment of the poor in urban and rural localities, the unquiet union with Zanzibar, the emergence or regional politics, and the effects of increasing inequality- though it must be said that the current administration has contributed significantly to the growth of the gap between kleptocrats and ordinary civilians.

“In order to succeed in growing its economy and redistributing the benefits of such growth, its greatest economic asset remains its overall political stability. So far there is every indication that the ruling party is cognizant of the importance of the continuity provided by the stable political system of which it has been the main architect”

It is worth repeating here that the current President has remained staunch in his avoidance of straight autocracy. With a Party chairman willing to exercise a bit of authority in order to retain as much of the spirit of 'public good' as he can manage, CCM has proved itself to be the chameleonic, learning organization that is smart enough to follow the winds of change. And as long as it is willing to flex and adapt to the times, however small the adjustments may be, then Tanzania retains a fighting chance, which is entirely different from the chance to fight. There is something to be said for that, and it is a lesson that I hope opposition parties are paying attention to."

It's a mix of old and new as I blended some predictive Poli-Sci writings from about six years ago with commentary on the current behaviors of the GoP. CCM has managed for 40 years to adapt in a pragmatic way to contemporary demands... and I see it doing that for a good long time to come. And yes, I do think that's a good thing. But I still refuse to get that party card :)

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