The role of political ideas in multi-party elections in Tanzania: refuting essentialist explanations of African political systems
Nyaluke, David and Connolly, Eileen (2013) The role of political ideas in multi-party elections in Tanzania: refuting essentialist explanations of African political systems. Irish Studies in International Affairs, 24 . pp. 41-57. ISSN 2009-0072
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Negative assessments of African democracy still dominate the literature, and Tanzania has been described as a ‘hybrid regime’—formally a multi-party democracy where the dominant party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), engages in non-democratic practices to ensure that it remains in power, including the manipulation of electoral processes, and in widespread neopatrimonial practices to protect the position of the political elite. This article is a contribution to the criticism of neo-patrimonial and ‘hybrid-regime’ explanations of the capacity of dominant parties to retain political control in Africa (which rest on essentialist views of African society) and to the broader discussion of the nature of African democracy. It uses an analysis of CCM election manifestoes from the beginning of the multi-party era in 1995, contextualised in a discussion of political events and external perceptions of the party, to examine the emphasis that CCM has placed on the use of political ideas and on its responsiveness to public opinion, rather than using
the manipulation of elections and other non-democratic political practices, as would be predicted by neo-patrimonial theory. It argues that CCM used political ideas to hold on to popular support from the beginning of the multipartyera to the 2010 elections, during which period its popularity has fluctuated, while the democratic standards that applied to the running of
elections and other aspects of political life in Tanzania have continued to improve. During this time the party developed a legitimacy narrative of which the policies of the one-party state formed a key part, as the ideas
that they contained continued to underpin concepts of political community in Tanzania.
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