African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 382

Full Length Research Paper

Why is Tanzanian opposition weak twenty five years since its re-introduction?

Mangasini Atanasi Katundu
  • Mangasini Atanasi Katundu
  • Department of Community and Rural Development, Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU), Moshi, Tanzania.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 May 2018
  •  Accepted: 11 June 2018
  •  Published: 31 July 2018


This paper examines the performance of opposition parties and the prospects of multiparty politics in Tanzania. At independence in 1961 and during Colonial Rule, Tanganyika now Tanzania Mainland was enjoying a multiparty democracy but moved to one party state during 1970s. The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has won all elections since re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992. The debate now is on the performance of Tanzania's opposition parties. Some scholars argue that many Tanzanians especially smallholders and rural inhabitants have strong loyalty to the ruling party CCM despite the economic difficulties they face. They further argue that, this strong loyalty to CCM is largely a result of lack of a strong alternative among the political parties, and nostalgia for the party which brought them independence and which has maintained relative peace. They also maintain that, it will simply take time for such nostalgia to fade and for a pro-rural challenge to the CCM to emerge; otherwise, age appears to have no significant effect on CCM support both Tanzanians old and young are loyal to the CCM. However, others claim that even if CCM is enjoying the power of the incumbency past elections results show that the margin of votes across constituencies for the CCM is in steady decline, thus challenging its dominance’. This paper is set to contribute to this live debate but taking the readers to a slightly different view point. In this paper, it is argued that, in spite of the claims made on the nature and quality of electoral institutions, and electoral system, opposition parties in the country have remained both numerically institutionally weak and fragmented. It is further argued that failure of the Tanzanian opposition parties is largely a product of internal weaknesses.


Key words: Tanzanian opposition, elections, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), political parties, politics.


The United Republic of Tanzania was formed on 26th April, 1964 after the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The Constitution of Tanzania defined the United Republic of Tanzania as a democratic and socialist state, which adhered to multiparty democracy. At independence in 1961 and during Colonial Rule, Tanganyika now Tanzania Mainland was enjoying a multiparty democracy[1]. According to the Encyclopedia of the Nations  during  this time, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), which was established in 1954, was the overwhelmingly dominant political party in the country. Other political parties of this era included the United Tanganyika Party (UTP), the African National Congress (ANC), and the All Muslim National Unity of Tanganyika Party (AMNUT). While this was the case in Tanganyika, in Zanzibar, there were three important political parties prior to independence. These were the ZNP (Zanzibar Nationalist Party, ASP (Afro-Shirazi Party), and ZPPP (Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party). On February 5, 1977, ASP the ruling  party   of  Zanzibar  and  TANU  merged   into   the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) or Revolutionary Party.
Following Constitutional amendments of 1965, Tanzania mainland (formerly Tanganyika) had only one political party the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) while Zanzibar following Revolution of 1964 had only one political party the Afro Shirazi Party (ASP). So from 1965 till 1977 Tanzania had only two sister political parties. Thereafter, the merging of ASP and TANU formed ‘Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) on 5th February 1977’. Tanzania had one political party from 1977 to 1992. Multiparty politics were re-introduced in 1992, after the National Assembly passed the Political Parties Act No.5 of 1992. Since the re-introduction of multi-party system in Tanzania, the country has undergone five phases of General Elections carried out after every five years of tenure (1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015). However, in all these general elections CCM has come out a winner. The major question is: Why are Tanzanian opposition parties still weak twenty five years since re-introduction? This paper answers this question and opens the debate on the internal weaknesses of the opposition parties in Tanzania.
Several debates exists concerning the performance of Tanzanian opposition parties, one such debate is on whether or not Tanzania is a democratic state. The debate on the form and content of Tanzania's constitution and democracy has been on the agenda throughout the four decades of Tanzania’s independence. In the recent process of transition since the 1990s, a series of political reforms such as introducing multi-partyism have been undertaken with the view of widening the space for democracy. But several political scientists have contested that approach. For instance, Nyirabu (2002) argues that democratization is much more than the introduction of multiparty politics and debates the various components of the constitution that are obstacles to popular participation including the monopoly of political parties in politics. The mainstay of democracy according to this author is for the people to have a say and power in their own lives and not to depend on the power of political parties. Shaba (2007) argues differently and to him Tanzania is making a very good progress towards becoming a fully fledged democratic nation. He argues that there is a broad consensus that the process of consolidating the transition towards participatory political system in Tanzania over the past seventeen years has achieved remarkable success. Whereas, once predominantly under a single party hegemony, Tanzania today is characterized by a plurality of political parties. Though slow, the growth of the independent civil society has gained momentum. This paper argues that Tanzania is a fully fledged democratic state. A democratic state is a state that is organized through   a   system  of  government  whereby  the  whole  population or all the eligible members of a state participate typically through elected representatives. In other words, a democracy entails providing people with the access to build a system of leadership to govern their socio-economic livelihoods of which Tanzania does. However, this definition is still not conclusive as one would challenge if indeed election is the single most important criteria of democracy.
Another hot debate is on whether or not failure of the Tanzanian opposition parties can be attributed to the opposition parties’ being weakened by the ruling Party, CCM, or not. In her article ‘Why the CCM won’t lose’, O’Gorman (2012) provides an empirical investigation of the factors contributing to single-party dominance in Tanzania. Despite the fact that Tanzania has had a multi-party democracy since 1995, the party which governed during single-party rule, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has won the vast majority of seats in the National Assembly in the first four multi-party elections. In order to understand the CCM’s grip on power, O’Gorman (2012) analysed the results of a survey conducted amongst subsistence farmers in Tanzania, which provides information on farmers’ livelihood conditions, access to media and political views, and hence provides insight into the preferences underlying voting behaviour. Using a survey conducted in 2008 amongst subsistence farmers, she notes that respondents tend to support the ruling party despite the rural neglect. Makulilo (2014) in his article, ‘why the CCM is still in power in Tanzania?, a reply’, questions the methodology used by O’Gorman (2012) and contests the associated key findings. He argues that the CCM’s dominance is a function of the incomplete de-linking of the party from the state of the old authoritarian regime thereby suffocating political space not only for the opposition parties but also for the members of civil society in rural and urban areas. This paper is set to contribute to this live debate but taking the readers to a slightly different viewpoint. In this paper, it is argued that failure of the Tanzanian opposition parties is largely a product of internal weaknesses.

Tanzania - Political parties, Encyclopedia of the Nations  accessed at [ ]



There are scholars and political analysts who believe that, opposition parties in Africa loose during general elections because of the power of the incumbency. The incumbents usually refer to the individuals who are existing holders of a political office. It is usually used in reference to elections where races can often be defined as being between an incumbent and non-incumbents.
According  to Burke (2016), the power of incumbency is the power to use the elected office for political gain. Depending on the office it can direct funds to projects that benefit supporters or punish opponents. Supporters of this idea argue that, incumbents have structural advantages over challengers during elections. They may use the state machinery to influence elections results in their favour. In some countries, even the electoral authorities may have been appointed by the incumbent. Burke (2016) further argues that, an individual who have been elected to an office say of a Ward Councilor or Member of Parliament in certain country can use the power of his office to pave the streets of supporters over other streets that may need it more. He or she might use what is called an “earmark” to direct spending to a district he or she represents over another one he or she does not represent. A Governor or a President of a certain Country can appoint friends and associates to state jobs as rewards for political support. What a challenger can do is to try to promise to deliver the services when elected into office. According to the author, such powers anyone who contest for the first time do not have. Proponents of this idea maintain that the power of incumbency is the main reason why so many office holders worldwide are re-elected more than their challengers especially in local governments, parliamentary, congress and the senate elections.
This paper argues that failure of opposition parties in Tanzania cannot be attributed to the ‘the power of incumbency’, rather it is an accumulation of internal weaknesses. Others like Hoffman and Robinson (2009) have mixed opinion concerning weaknesses of Tanzanian opposition. They establish that, on one hand there is an easy explanation that the absence of a vigorous political opposition results from a combination of little demand and uninspiring leadership, a line of reasoning that also defines the CCM as a relatively benign hegemon acceptable to the vast majority of Tanzanians. On the other hand, they protest that, although this argument is based on a significant amount of truth, it overlooks the CCM’s deliberate attempts to suppress those who contest its near-monopoly of power, including its willingness to resort to coercion when other methods fail such realities raise serious questions about the ruling party’s benevolent reputation. Despite these arguments, in this paper it is maintained that is difficult to believe that CCM use the state machinery to try to win elections because we have witnessed incumbent political parties loose elections in Countries like Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. Can we argue here that ruling parties in these countries did not use the power of incumbency or they parties differ in the degree they apply the power? The author’s position is that, Tanzania exhibits different characteristics. Authors like Norman (2009) establish that the strength of political parties varies and is associated with several factors, including youthfulness and ability to manage political parties as organizations. He further argues that, the strength of any political party can be determined through two ways, subject to the eye of the examiner and the objectives of such examination. However, the common phenomenon is through number of people that support the political party, as expressed through votes attained in a particular election. The second criterion is the number of contestants who contest in various elections. Using the cited criterion, Tanzanian Opposition Parties still lie behind CCM.
Scholars such as Pedersen (2012) believe that political party goals affect party behaviour and, hence, party democracy. They also maintain that, what parties seek to accomplish matters for the way they handle the power delegated to them by the voters. Party goals also affect how people understand and explain party behaviour. Furthermore, people’s knowledge of what parties want affects what they expect them to do. For instance, coalition theory assumes that parties have identical goals, and hence are equally likely to join coalitions given the same situation. Likewise, rational choice theorists have developed a set of theories of competitive party behavior, as outlined in Strom (1990). According to the stipulated objectives of political parties, we can differentiate between (1) vote-seeking, (2) office-seeking, and (3) policy- seeking models of party behavior (Figure 1). The sub-sequent sub-sections explain these models which have said to influenced the study of parties even more than formal literature for some time now.
The Vote-Seeking Party
The model was developed out of Downs's (1957) study on electoral competition; the model assumes that political parties are "teams of men" whose main objective is to exploit their electoral support in order to gain control of the government. Consequently, scholars argue that, these political parties commonly known as “Downsian parties” are not only vote seekers but vote maximizers. They further argue that, this forms the basis of Downs’s theory of electoral competition. Conversely, Downs's explanation of the vote-seeking hypothesis remains underdeveloped; partly because of this neglect, following theorists (such as Robertson, 1976; Melvin and Ordeshook, 1970) have amended Downs’s supposition in a variety of ways. They argue that, if turnout is variable and vote seeking ultimately serves office ambitions, then in a single district, it makes more sense to maximize pluralities than votes. While, in multi-district contests, the rational party leader maximizes his (or her) probability of winning a majority of the contested seats. However, one short- coming with this model is that, it is too euro-centric.
It was developed to explain voting behaviour and political parties formulation in Europe especially Britain. It may not fit to explains political scenario in Africa, where its multiparty systems is not well developed and there are many small parties and declining social groups, which may not fit the logic of "catch-all" competition.
The Office-Seeking Party
The foremost objective of Office-seeking parties is to maximize their control over political office and not votes (Strom, 1990). In his article, Strom (1990) defined office benefits as ‘private goods which are bestowed on recipients of politically discretionary governmental and sub-governmental appointments’. Hence, office-seeking deeds consist in the quest of such goods, beyond their electoral or policy value. Other authors such as Ian and Laver (1986) report, that even if political office may well contribute to electoral success or policy effectiveness, it is not considered office seeking. While on one hand, the vote-seeking party is familiar from work on electoral competition, on the other hand, the office-seeking party has been developed mainly to study government coalitions, especially parliamentary democracies. As a result, the office-seeking party, aspire to make best use of its control of elected office,  often  defined  in  terms  of government portfolios. This model may to some extent explain the current activities of opposition political parties in Tanzania. Opposition parties after the 2015 General Election had 114 parliamentary seats (though currently some have shifted to CCM) and they were controlling several local government authorities including, Arusha, Moshi, Hai, Moshi Municipality, Kigoma, Temeke, Ubungo, Kinondoni, Singida East, and Mbeya city. Their political activities prove that, they are maximizing control of these elected offices to gain popularity which could help them in future elections, the same could be said for CCM. Norman (2009) report that some political parties and/or leaders in Tanzania (such as Rev. Mtikira Former Chairman of DP, Chadema MPs, etc) are popular due to the uncommon behavior observed by the leaders or followers of such a party. The tendency of some these leaders to frequently petition on matters related to governance and elections may capture the attention of the voters and lead to popularity.
Another weakness of this model is its bias towards those political parties which have gained control of the government offices. It does not offer an alternative solution to political parties which participate in election and do not gain control of any government portfolio the scenario which is also present in Tanzania. It only assumes that all political parties which participate in elections  do  gain  government portfolios which could not be the case sometimes.
The Policy-Seeking Party
Authors point out that, the policy-seeking party normally maximizes its impact on public policy. This model like office-seeking model is also resulting from coalition studies (Strom, 1990). This model was a response to the "policy-blind" axioms of game theoretic studies of government development and specifically the assumption that all permissible coalitions are equally possible. Policy-based coalition theory instead assumes that coalitions will be made by parties that are "connected" (Axelrod, 1970), or at least close to each other, in policy space. They typically assume that parties also hunt office at least instrumentally, as elective office is taken to be a precondition for policy influence. Thus the policy-seeking party is concerned about government portfolios, as well as about the ideological disposition of the coalition in which it participates (Ian and Laver, 1986). Since the trade-off between these objectives has never been resolved, the policy-seeking party remains the least adequately developed model of competitive party behavior. Since this model of party behavior is less well developed than the other two, it is also more difficult to disprove. However, no party should join a government without effecting policy change in its favor. In this article, it is argued that, political parties in Tanzania do not exhibit characteristics of Policy-Seeking Parties; rather, they are more off Office-Seeking Parties.
Some scholars such as Strom (1990) propose a Unified Model of Party Behavior. They claim that, a more general behavioral theory of competitive political parties requires an understanding of the interrelations and trade-offs between different objectives. We can begin by thinking of political parties as "going concerns," whose objectives include all three goals discussed above: votes, office, and policy. Pure vote seekers, office seekers, or policy seekers are unlikely to exist. We can empirically identify party objectives, or mixes of objectives, through manifest party behavior. But the best way to understand the relationships between office- seeking, policy-seeking, and vote-seeking behavior is to develop a unified theory of party competition.


This study applied a documentary and  literature review  method  to gather the required information on nature and performance of opposition parties and the prospects of multiparty politics in Tanzania. Relevant literature and documents which were reviewed included files on past Tanzanian general elections starting with the pre-independence elections that involved the Legislative Council Election which took place on February 1959 to the most recent 2015 general elections. Some of the documents were accessed through the African Elections Database’s website and the United Republic of Tanzania National Electoral Commission (NEC) official website. In addition to the mentioned documents, in this study various literatures were reviewed. The reviewed literature among other things debates on the nature, structure and performance of the opposition parties during the past Tanzanian general elections. The information obtained from these sources helped to answer the key research question.
There is a common agreement among social scientists that no single study can be done without a literature review. Literature review and or documentary review have been used by social science researchers mainly as part of group of methodologies of data collection. However, literature review can stand alone as robust technique of data gathering. Use of literature review technique in gathering data is very common within the field of political science. For instance, Malipula (2014) conducted a literature review to establish a structural and historical explanation that attributes lack of ethnic salience in Tanzanian politics to a particular ethnic structure, to certain colonial administrative and economic approaches, and to a sustained nation-building ethos. Likewise, Montero and Gunther (2003) used literature review to make a critical reassessment of political parties in Western Europe. Furthermore, Disch et al. (2009) used the literature review method to study the anti-corruption approaches. Also, Bogaards (2014) used similar methodology to study electoral alliances in Africa. Summary of the key literatures reviewed in this study is presented in Table 1:
Methods of data analysis
Qualitative data were analyzed through the use of Content Analysis where information gathered from the documents and literatures were transcribed into word document. Thereafter, key themes and patterns were formed and codes established. The qualitative information were then integrated with quantitative information mainly from the African Elections Database (2011) and the United Republic of Tanzania National Electoral Commission (NEC) Official Website (2015) to provide more meaningful analysis. In analyzing quantitative data, descriptive statistics were conducted where percentage and frequencies on past elections results were computed. Results were then presented in tables, to show how each of political party performed as far as Presidential and Parliamentary election were concerned.
The history of Tanzania’s General Elections dates back to pre independence 1950s. The 1958/1959 Legislative Council Election (Figure 2) saw Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) which later in 1977 merged with the Afro-Shiraz Party to form ‘Chama Cha Mapinduzi’ (Revolutionary Party which is the current ruling Party in Tanzania) wining with 28 seats out of 30 available seats compared to other political parties who had only 2 seats. It should be  noted  that  this  was the Multiparty Election.
The votes TANU gathered from this election suggests that it was founded on a very strong foundation and was made to last longer. From the beginning, Tanganyikans had believed in TANU and its leadership under Julius Nyerere. The current CCM is still reaping fruits of this strong foundation.
Tanganyika had another pre-independence Legislative Council elections held on 30th August, 1960. Unlike the September 1958 elections, this time the electoral authorities allocated more number of seats (71) to be contested by political parties. Likewise, during this election it  was  TANU which won all seats, because even the single independent candidate who won a seat in Mbulu was a loyal TANU member who opposed the official candidate and immediately joined the TANU ranks after his victory. The African National Congress (ANC) which was the only party challenging TANU did not win any seat and ended up having a total of 0.28% of votes (see Table 2). At this point TANU had established itself as the only strong unifying political party which can lead the country. Leaders of ANC later on established new political parties to oppose TANU now CCM, however, they did not succeed. For example, the ANC which was formed by former TANU members who broke away from TANU in 1958 due to dissatisfaction regarding TANU’s position and ideology on Africanization and especially TANU’s definition of ‘Africanization’ which included people of all races who were citizens of Tanganyika was purely a discriminatory political party. In spite of sharing the same name with the ANC of South Africa, Tanganyika’s ANC was radically different from its counterpart. The Tanganyika’s ANC, wanted Tanganyika to be exclusively a domain for blacks. Its leader Mr. Zuberi Mtemvu himself was virulently an anti-white, anti-Asian and against any other non-black even if they were citizens of Tanganyika (Mwakikagile, 2010). The Party’ doctrine of ‘Africa for Africans’, meant only one thing, Africa for black Africans. This doctrine according to Mwakikagile was contrary to the advice by Dr. Martin Luther King who said: ‘We must all learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we will all perish together as fools’ (Mwakikagile, 2010).
The newly formed opposition parties (of 1990s) in Tanzania seem to have inherited similar syndrome of internal weaknesses. Teshome (2009) reports that most of the opposition parties in Africa are established around the personalities of individuals, lack internal democracy, suffer from inter-party and intra-party conflicts, have severe shortage of finance, and lack strong base and experience. Their weaknesses also include bad organization and weak connection with the popular constituencies. Arguing in similar lines, Mwakikagile (2010) establishes that, Rev. Christopher Mtikira used the doctrines reminiscent of the African National Congress (ANC) in Tanganyika in the late fifties and early sixties when the party was led by Zuberi Mtemvu. Mtikila the founder  and  first  chairperson  of  the  Democratic  Party (DP) also was an anti-whites, anti-Asian and against any other non-blacks. His slogans like ‘wazawa’ (natives) and ‘gabachori’ (non-natives) echoed the sentiments of other racial purists witnessed in the 1950s during the fight for independence such as ‘Africa for Africans’. It is not surprising therefore that Tanganyikans now Tanzania did not trust opposition political parties and Tanzanians continue to distrust them.
The same reasons can be said about the November 1st 1962 Presidential Election where TANU candidate Mwalimu (Teacher ) Julius Nyerere won with more than 98% of votes leaving Mr. Zuberi Mtemvu of ANC with less than 2% of total votes casted (Table 3). Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was a non-racial in his perspective, and this position got him into conflict with his colleagues in his Party and the Government, but maintained his stand.
The 1962 and the pre-independence election results had portrayed an image that Tanganyika had only one powerful political party supported by the majority. It was because of the weaknesses of the opposition parties that the government decided to abolish multipartism and opted for a single party democracy thereafter. However, it is still debatable if really weaknesses of the opposition parties could have been a sufficient reason for their abolition.
The decision to turn Tanganyika into a one-party state was made by the TANU’s National Executive Committee and on the 14th January 1963 this decision was announced by President Nyerere (Carter, 1986). The President was given by the National Executive Committee an authority to appoint a Presidential Commission to consider the changes to the constitutions of the Republic and of the Party that might be necessary to give effect to this decision. The Commission was appointed on 28th January, 1964 and reported on 22nd March, 1965. The Commission had 13 members, two of whom were prominent Europeans and one Asian. The Commission invited written evidence and also took verbal evidence throughout the country. Its deliberations were guided by the terms of two important memoranda drawn up by the President and as a result the final report was deeply influenced by President Nyerere’s approach to the whole subject, an approach which, as it turned out, received widespread  support  during  the  course   of   the   verbal evidence.
The Commission laid finally at rest the view that the party should not be a small, elite leadership group and insisted that it should be a mass organisation open to every citizen of Tanzania. This decision finally established the character of TANU as constituting a national movement; indeed the word ‘party’, with its sectional implications, was no longer an appropriate description and the resulting pattern of Government, as Professor Pratt has suggested, ‘was in many ways closer to a no party system than to a one party system (Ibid)’. It is clear from the evidence that this concept fully reflected the mood of the people, who showed no interest at all in entrenching ideologically exclusive elite, but saw the necessity for a single national movement to emphasize and safeguard the unity of the nation.
The assumption was that, single party democracy would strengthen nationhood, unity and solidarity among citizens. During single party democracy, there were only one presidential candidate and voters were asked to decide whether they vote for him or against him. The opposition votes in this system ought to have been manifesting itself in a form of ‘against votes’. Reading across the various single party Presidential election results one can note that the against votes did not exceed 5% (Table 4), and most CCM supporters may argue that this suggested a solid trust to the CCM while others may argue it showed lack of alternative. This paper subscribe to the former than the later largely, because, voters were not forced to the ballot box. In all elections during that time CCM came out with a landslide victory of over and above 95%.
CCM is still enjoying the fruits of decisions made by TANU in the 1960s which presented the party as ‘everyone’s party’ and it will continue to benefit for many years to come. Tanzanian opposition has failed to come up  with  a  candidate   of    their   own.  During   elections opposition leaders will defer their internal nomination until CCM finishes its nomination to wait for anyone who is discontented with CCM decision of not picking him to join their parties. As a result all candidates who seemed to bring some sort of challenges were former CCM leaders. Mr. Augustine Mrema for example joined the National Convention for Construction and Reform–Mageuzi Party and became its presidential candidate in the 1995 Tanzanian Presidential Elections. He became the leading opposition Candidate with 27.77% of the total votes (Table 4). The problem with this methodology is that, parties with little or no screening techniques tend to absorb everyone who appears to support them, in so doing they end up picking candidates whom they don’t know very much and in the end some become reliabilities and sources of internal divisions. Regarding this argument a good example is that of Mr. John Shibuda the former MP of the ‘Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo’, in several occasions he was against his party’s decision.
A closer look at Table 5 reveals that in the 1995 Tanzanian Presidential Election, opposition gathered a total of 38.18% of votes the highest number of votes than in any other elections. This opposition performance was triggered by the fact that it was the first multiparty elections after it was abolished in the 1960s. Some voters who were born in between 1965 and 1992 never saw multiparty system and were excited but slowly that excitement faded out because the opposition parties did not meet their expectations and the number of opposition supporters went on decreasing election after election as it can be witnesses in the subsequent Tables.
Parliamentary election results in Table 6 show that CCM had majority of the seats in the parliament (186) as compared to opposition (46). During this time the most popular   opposition   party   was  the  Civic  United  Front  (CUF) with its strong hold in Pemba Zanzibar. CUF got 24 seats all of them from Zanzibar followed by the National Convention for Construction and Reform-Mageuzi (NCCR-Mageuzi) of Mr Augustine Lyatonga Mrema which obtained 16 seats all of them from Tanzania Mainland. Failure for opposition parties to get seats from both sides of the union i.e. Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland shows that the opposition parties were not accepted by all citizens, they are not ‘nationalistic parties’, hence, voters saw them as ‘ none-unifying’ and therefore they cannot advance ‘nationhood’. The only party which has been getting many seats from both sides of the union during all these elections is CCM. It should be noted here that CCM was formed by a merging of two very strong political parties, Afro-Shiraz Party (ASP) from Zanzibar and the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) from Tanganyika now Tanzania Mainland. Suffice to say CCM was built on a solid foundation and is still enjoying the fruits of the foundation. Many of these opposition political parties were formed out of ad hoc meeting of friends who did not even know themselves very well. Consequently, internal conflicts and scramble for power were common.
The Tanzanian Presidential Election of the year 2000 witnessed CCM wining again and this time its presidential candidate Mr. Benjamin William Mkapa was competing for his second term in office (Table 7). Contrary to majority’s expectation, the total votes which went to opposition declined by 20% from 38.18 to 28.26 votes. One would expect that, because they were dealing with the same opponent they would have improved their total votes but that wasn’t the case. These election results confirm the general perception of the Tanzanians that, CCM presidential candidates are better in their second terms that in their first terms (with few exceptions). It can be predicted that CCM will win the 2020 elections comfortably regardless who the opposition choose as their candidates. If the opposition can’t learn from their mistakes, they should forget going to state house soon.
Likewise,  CCM   won   the  29  October  2000  National Assembly Election with majority of seats 202 compared to opposition’s 29 (Table 8). The Civic United Front (CUF) again was the most popular opposition party followed by the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP). Reasons for the failure are almost the same ‘internal conflicts’ and lack of long term vision. For example, the National Convention for Construction and Reform - Mageuzi (NCCR- Mageuzi) was just coming from a serious internal conflict which forced its National Chair Mr. Augustine Mrema and his followers to renounce the party and join the TLP, therefore opposition was divided at a time when unity was highly needed.
The wining story continues for CCM as the losing story for the opposition during the Tanzanian Presidential Election of 2005. During this election, CCM had a new presidential candidate Mr. Jakaya Kikwete, while nearly all opposition parties had the same presidential candidate defeated in the previous elections (Table 9). This was the election where CCM won most comfortably more than any other election since the times of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Mr. Ali Hassan Mwinyi (80.28%). This election again witnesses  the  opposition  camp  failing  to get the candidate they were expecting from CCM. It should be noted here that Chadema had delayed its nomination of the presidential candidate to wait for unsatisfied CCM members to join them. This time it did not work, there were no influential member of CCM who had opted to join the opposition; as a result, the Chadema for example, opted for their youthful chairman Mr. Freeman Mbowe to vie for the position which he lost badly. It was only during this particular election when the opposition for the first time, conceded defeat. Political scientists say, during this election opposition had lost before voting and conceding defeat was not only necessary but more meaningful.
The opposition again lost the December 14 2005 National Assembly Election (Table 10). For many years now Tanzania has been a democratic country which follows principles of democracy. Democracy as system of government has some basic principles, namely: Rule of law, freedom of press, respect for human right, active political participation and active political processes. Other essential features of democracy in the advance femocracies  are:  ideologically   based  political   parties, internal democracy in party politics, political party supremacy and good governance (Dauda, 2015). It should be noted here that this particular election as for all previous ones was free, fair and democratic. This is why opposition had to concede defeat.
It was not surprising that, opposition lost  again  during the 2010 Tanzanian Presidential Election (Table 11). It is equally important to note here that only 8,626,283 voters equivalent to 42.8% of total registered voters (20,137,303) voted during this election; where, 227,889 votes (2.64% of total votes) were invalid votes. This was the  worst  voter  turnout  in   the   history   of   Tanzanian Presidential Election. Even if the discussion on reasons as to why so many voters did not vote is not part of this papers’ subject matter, it is necessary to comment on it. The poor voter turnout could be attributed to lack of voter education which may be a result of limited awareness campaign from both the opposition and CCM. It is also difficult to establish that the low voter turnout benefited CCM than opposition, because even CCM members did not turn out to vote. CCM has more than eight million members countrywide. It is not possible that all voters who turned out were CCM members.
Like the Presidential Election, CCM won also the 31 October, 2010 National Assembly election as widely expected. Ad hoc preparations, internal/inter parties conflicts, lack of unity among and between political parties as well as vague ideologies and policies of the parties resulted to the opposition getting only 53 seats out of 239 available seats (Table 12). The parties therefore do not have clear-cut alternatives to present to the voters, and the programmes are of lesser importance than the personalities who represent the parties and contest elections. Second, only the incumbent party is able to reach down to the voters on a regular basis. The other parties do not have the necessary organisation or resources, and contact therefore becomes sporadic and ad-hoc. Finally, very  serious  conflicts  within  the  parties threaten both the stability and credibility of the parties and the party system (Magnar, 2000).
The Tanzanian Presidential Election of 2015 confirmed lack of unity among opposition political parties and internal conflicts. This time again the opposition camp failed to come up with a single candidate. Instead they fielded seven candidates to challenge CCM’s Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli. Again, like in 1995 elections, the opposition relied on the former CCM member Mr. Edward Lowasa to take them through of which he did not. Mr. Lowasa came second with 39.97% of total votes (in an election where opposition believed they will win) whereas, CCM’s Magufuli gathered 58.46% of total votes (Table 12). It is important to note here that, prior to this election chadema had expelled three of its very important cadres namely: Mr. Zitto Zuberi Kabwe, Dr. Kitila Mkumbo (Now Prof.) and Mr. Samson Mwigamba. This was a bad move at making, because these cadres went on forming a new political part known as Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT). ACT was seen by many Tanzanians as the only viable alternative party to CCM which preaches nationhood, peace and unity. As a result, despite it only being few months old it entered into an election and its candidate came third after Dr. Magufuli and Mr. Lowasa by gathering a total of 98,763 votes.
Perhaps the most damaging move for chadema and opposition in general was that of ousting its national Secretary General Dr. Willibrod Slaa in an attempt to attract the former CCM member Mr. Lowasa. In a highly-attended press conference broadcasted live on various television stations across the country Dr Slaa gave details of his decision not to give a nod to his party agreeing to receive Mr Edward Lowassa as the opposition's presidential flag bearer. Dr. Slaa pointed finger to Chadema presidential candidate Mr. Edward Lowassa as being corrupt and therefore unreliable as a leader. Chadema had lost credibility and public trust for accepting former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who has incessantly been implicated in various corrupt practices (Majaliwa, 2015). He used a number of documented and undocumented examples to illustrate why Mr. Lowassa is tainted, suggesting that with all that 'liability', such a candidate cannot have the moral authority to become president. ‘What has happened in my party is retrogressive, and since I do not agree with the move they have made, I have left Chadema and quit politics generally (ibid). To greater extent any serious analyst would expect the opposition to fail in 2015.
During the 2015 presidential elections the opposition camp gathered a combined 41.52% of the total votes (Table 13) but this percent is expected to go down in 2020 elections because the opposition is not making any meaningful efforts to improve or maintain its votes. Recent polls have indicated that President Dr. John Magufuli’s popularity is increasing drastically countrywide. For instance, the polls which was commissioned by the Mwananchi Communication limited in February 2016 showed that, if elections were to be conducted in February 2016, Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of CCM will win by 75% whereas the main opposition leader Mr. Edward Ngoyayi Lowasa will lose the elections by scoring only 20% of votes. The polls also revealed that Dr. Magufuli’s  popularity  among   different   cohorts  is  also increasing. He is 75% popular among young people aged 26-35 years, 73% popular among those aged 36-45 years, 79% among rural voters (who are traditionally the majority of voters in Tanzania) and 78% popular among women (Kimboy, 2016). The former works minister is maintaining popularity in all zones, 82% central, 73% Coast, 68% Lake, 78% Northern (traditionally opposition’s strong hold), 78% Southern and 92% Zanzibar (Kimboy, 2016). This might surprise many; just three months after the general election, voters are no longer interested with opposition politics. The mere fact is opposition parties are not performing. They are ‘event based political parties’ and in most circumstances are operating on ‘activist basis’. The sooner they turn and operate as political parties, only then will they realize that it is better for them. Activism politics do not work in Tanzania.
It can be said here that the coalition formed by Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), the Civic United Front; National Convention for Construction and Reform-Mageuzi (NCCR-Mageuzi) and National League for Democracy (NLD) was the coalition of the scrawny and its failure signifies a huge lack of faith among the general public on the opposition parties. Likewise, the 2015 elections witnessed the opposition parties losing their strong holds in Kigoma, Mwanza Urban and Musoma Urban, with key opposition figures losing in the process. In the list there is Mr. Ezekia Dibogo Wenje (Nyamagana constituency), Mr. Vincent Josephat Kiboko Nyerere (Musoma Urban constituency) and Mr. David Zacharia Kafulila (Kigoma South constituency). Table 14 reveals more information regarding the Tanzania’s 2015 National Assembly Elections results.


This paper agrees with the  literature  that, the process of  consolidating the transition towards participatory political system in Tanzania over the past seventeen years has achieved remarkable success. The country has also witnessed a remarkable transformation of the press. State-owned media outfits that had dominated for decades have now changed and become openings for different voices, not just the ruling party - a major step towards promoting democratic practice. This paradigm shift has also helped aggravate a critical relationship between a tangential media and government, which is a vital health element of a growing democracy.
Opposition parties in Tanzania are being challenged by many factors including institutional weaknesses in practically all opposition political parties as manifested by the lack of party philosophy or ideology, the functioning of party structures and processes, lack of participatory internal democracy due to deficit of communication between party leaders, followers and the general public. Despite the nature and quality of electoral institutions, and electoral system, opposition parties in this country have remained numerically weak and fragmented. It is concluded that Tanzania’s opposition politics is weak, more  than   two   decades   after   the   re-introduction  of multiparty democracy, no opposition political party has emerged as a clear, credible, strong alternative to the ruling CCM and there is no indication of one being found in the near future. Power struggles have divided the country’s opposition parties since the re-introduction of the multiparty democracy in the year 1995. The lack of internal democracy and weak foundations could be the opposition’s downfall. No real challenges exist to CCM, in particular in rural areas, as the opposition parties neither have the organisation nor the resources to fully develop structures at all district/local levels in the vast country. No strong and well organised nationwide opposition has emerged – as in most other African countries.
The paper concludes also that the reasons for failure of opposition parties are generally internal and can be attributed to ad hoc preparations, internal/inter parties conflicts, lack of unity among and between political parties, pitiable organization and bad leadership. Problems can be explained both in terms of the formal and informal institutional setting of the democratic transition, and in terms of socio-economic structures. The paper further concludes that most opposition parties lack grassroots  base, because all political parties started from above and mostly in urban centers and have offices in urban centres and have done very little to reach the grassroots especially in the rural areas where about 87% of the population live. Tanzania is yet another example that shows that quick fixes of instituting formal democratic structures upon an informal, undemocratic culture of neo-patrimonialism will not be sustainable, and that democratic consolidation in the long run depends upon a combination of economic and institutional development. In light of the conclusions made this paper recommends the following:
i) Opposition parties should stop blaming outside forces; they should instead put more efforts to alleviate their internal weaknesses as their problems are mainly internal. A large part of the parties’ time and energies are devoted to internal power struggles, quite naturally for newly started parties in newly introduced multiparty context. Not the least the struggle over who should be chairman and/or presidential candidate, as demonstrated by, e.g., the struggles within NCCR-Mageuizi, CUF, Chadema and TLP. But also struggles and rivalry with other parties in the opposition.
ii) Opposition parties should observe principles of democracy. It is recommended here that introducing ‘term limit’ on party’s leadership would do much favour to the progress of the respective parties; while CCM do change its leaders at least every 10 years, opposition parties stick with the same individuals who fail them day in day out. You cannot rely on old solutions to solve new problems. Term limits give a party the chance to grow through leadership development. Different members have different ideas on how to bring the party forward. If Real Madrid sticks with same manager they had 10 years ago, they would have not reached 10 European championships by now, they would have even been flattened by ‘Tanzania’s Simba Sports Club’. Democracy is mainly about paying attention even to words you do not like and act on them.
iii) Opposition parties should find proper way to reach the ‘grassroots’. There is no short of winning elections rather than reaching the people, they need to stick to numbers; when it is said that more than 75% live in rural areas it means voters are in rural areas. Even if you win all constituencies in Dar es-salaam you will never win the general election; you must reach the people and the people are in rural areas.
iv) All opposition parties should have comprehensive and realistic political programmes and policies if they want to win elections. Ad hoc projects or quick fixes like ‘m4c’ will not work. Today you say no to a corrupt leader tomorrow you say yes, no one will understand. Tanzanians cannot be fooled they are well-informed and their views must be respected by politicians. The lack of comprehensive policy alternatives to CCM is a critique shared by media, CSO, key informants and voters. Most people share opinion that the opposition in Tanzania does not present alternative policies. Opposition leaders ought  to  starting working on this the earlier the better for them.



The author has not declared any conflict of interests.



The author is grateful to the editors’ and the four anonymous and independent reviewers of the African Journal of Political Science and International Relations for their exceptionally useful comments which improved the quality of this paper. The article also benefits from critical comments received from Prof. Kidane Mengisteab of The Pennsylvania State University, US. Useful inputs given by Dr. Benson Ndiege and Dr. Neema Kumburu from Moshi Cooperative University (MoCU) during different stages of this papers’ writing is also highly appreciated.


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