Thursday, July 29, 2010

Protest Vote?

First things first: I am looking for a comprehensive, well-written, credible book on contemporary Tanzanian history (post-independence and as deep into the 21st century as possible) that is preferably Not a biography, autobiography or family history. If you can point me in the direction of one I'll be grateful.

There were a couple of interesting political stories in the news today. First, our Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children has been arrested and questioned by the Prevention for Corruption Bureau on allegations of electoral corruption in the Umoja wa Wanawake (CCM women's wing) polls in Tabora. My favorite part?
"...the suspects were arrested on Tuesday at around 1:55am at a guest house known as Camise situated in Cheyo A area, 100 meters from the regional PCCB office. "
It is good to see CCM women excel in numerous areas of Tanzanian public life, including the all-important practice of corruption. I wonder what the Speaker of the House thinks? Anyways, proponents of the theory that women will make "better" leaders because of gender traits like non-violence, listening skills and the propensity to place communal welfare above individual ambitions.. stop laughing, I'm trying to make a point here... might want to study Umoja wa Wanawake Tanzania.

Dr. Wilbrod Slaa, who was asked by Chadema to run as its presidential candidate, has received heroic support from his constituency. I wish them luck. I was debating his chances of winning this morning with a civil society friend and realized that I am likely to vote conservatively in the presidential race. Much as I admire the good doctor, and suspect that he will be a fiercely focused policy-maker, what's the point? A non-CCM president would be hamstrung in the current environment where the GoP is indistinguishable from government. However my friend did suggest that if nothing else, voting for Dr. Slaa would do two important things: let the government know how many people think he's a better choice than the incumbent, and deprive the incumbent of that vote.

The first point is dubious: being a brilliant mind and a focused, committed opposition member doesn't translate to being an effective president since effectiveness requires the cooperation of your government. The second point, that of the protest vote, is reasonable though risky- look what happened in 1995 when we nearly voted in (or did vote in, depending on who you ask) one Augustine Mrema. I have yet to meet anyone who isn't relieved that things didn't pan out for him and for Tanzania...

The biggest disappointment with multi-party politics has been our lackadaisical approach to institution-building. This is hardly astrophysics: if just one party had started out in 1995 with a canny vision to be implemented over the course of a decade or two, maybe CCM would actually be facing a credible threat. Instead here we are today still under the unbroken thumb of the Establishment. Under these circumstances it is difficult to take the opposition seriously. We need independent candidates to challenge the status quo.

Le sigh. I suppose the fact that there might be an alternative presidential candidate worth considering is a tentative step along our road to competitive democracy...


  1. Hey, I think you should go to the CHADEMA website and read their policies, then post back on here and tell us what you think, for it would be interesting to know if they have altered your predilection for 'voting conservatively'

  2. Thanks for that Anon, let's get a discussion going. I have taken a look at their policies and they are certainly gorgeous on paper. But you know, so is our constitution. For that matter, so are many CCM policies, on paper.

    My issue is practicability: even if Dr. Slaa won by some miracle, do you believe this would be a positive development for a country where the state is completely intertwined with the party? I doubt a non-CCM president would enjoy authority in government without significant support in parliament...

    We're fantastic at policies my friend. Action, however, is a bit of a different story as you know.

  3. On the views of the Speakers see here: Ametoa mkwara mzito.

    Personally if I was in the country this year, I would have voted for the first time in my 24 years of existence. And yes, it would have been a protest vote against CCM - yes, for Chadema. The thing is CCM are comfortable and have for many years been complacent with their dubious popularity. TZ tumezidi ushabiki mno. How can I vote for a candidate who is afraid of a broadcasted political debate? How can I vote for a party filled with big-wigs satisfied with the current state of the country?
    At this moment, I would rather have a change of government. The team at Chadema is a strong one. It would have been only stronger if we had a united opposition puting up 1 candidate.

  4. Anon, I was nodding my head with you right up until the 'change of government' bit. Admittedly the Chadema team is good, and if they can convince more of us to vote we'll have a great parliament. But it is a small team which severely limits their presence. As for united oppositions- coalition is a dirty word ;)


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