The most important political party in Tanzania’s political history, CCM, is in trouble. Inner conflicts, decrease in popularity and accusations of corruption are testing the unity of the party.
CCM was created in 1977, when the continental Tanzania’s power party TANU and Zanzibar’s ASP joined forces. CCM was the only party in the federation until 1992, when the country officially adapted the multiparty system.
The first multiparty election was held in Tanzania in 1995. The election was considered relatively free, but critics blamed CCM for not playing a fear game. At least the party knew how to use to its advantage the incoherence of the opposition and its own position as a ruler of the governmental and semi-governmental institutions. The people still honoured the party as a follower of the deceased president Julius Nyerere.
In many African countries where the democratisation process started at the same time with Tanzania (such as Angola, Mozambique and Namibia), the first multiparty election was vitally important for the future. The winning party of the first multiparty election was able to fortify its ruling position and harden the formation of a strong opposition so there never actually was a real democratic choice.
Challenging the old ruling party
At the moment CCM is probably weaker than ever. The most important opposition party Chadema has risen to be a real contender and its support, especially in North-Tanzania’s big cities Mwanza and Arusha, is bigger than the ruling party’s.
Chadema tries to show itself as a dynamic option, which appeals to educated population in the cities. CCM in the other hand has always been especially strong in the countryside. This division is a rough one, because political views aren’t clearly bound to social class in Tanzania. Additionally a fairly big part of the people is politically passive and in the other hand there are also a lot of floating voters.
The alarming part is that the ruling party has reacted to the decline of its popularity by suppressing opposition’s demonstrations and trying to silence its most acrimonious critics. In August one demonstrator in Chadema’s demonstration was killed and in the beginning of September the police killed a known TV journalist, Daudi Mwangos, who was making a story about Chadema’s demonstration near Inringa. The latter incident gained attention in the international press and UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, among others, condemned the incident.
CCM has declared against the killing accusations and has blamed the opposition for stirring up disturbances. In Continental Tanzania’s context this kind of public violence is exceptional, even though the opposition claims that there have been assaults and intimidation behind closed doors.
It is very interesting to follow how the lead of CCM tries to control the situation. There are constant rumours in the press about an inner conflict in the party. In September the incumbent president Jakaya Kikwete announced that there will be a significant inner cleaning in the party, where the corrupted old politicians make room for their younger colleagues. “Those who wait for CCM to die are going to wait for a long time. We will improve the party and make sure that it stays strong and powerful also in the future,” Kikwete announced.
Writer is an intern in Demo Tanzania office.