Tanzania election: How Magufuli cemented his power – but strayed further from Julius Nyerere’s legacy

JOHN Magufuli’s much-maligned victory in last month’s Tanzanian election means the traditionally socialist CCM party remains in power.

Accusations of vote rigging, violence and intimidation have called into question the veracity of the results, which saw Mr Magufuli garner 85% of the votes and lead the CCM into a sixth consecutive term in office.

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi – also known as ‘Party of the Revolution’ – has been the dominant party in Tanzania after being set up by anti-colonial activist Julius Nyerere in 1977.

Mr Nyerere, who played a significant role in the nation’s independence movement, was a subscriber of ‘Ujamaa’ – a form of African socialism – and hoped the CCM would continue to rule Tanzania in a socialist fashion long after his tenure.

But Dr Daniel Paget, an expert at the University of Aberdeen, told Redaction Politics that Mr Magufuli has departed from any notion of socialist policy, despite an outward presentation as Mr Nyerere’s natural successor.

“President Magufuli presents himself as Nyerere’s heir,” Dr Paget told this publication.

“He repeats at every opportunity that he is following in Nyerere’s footsteps and realising his vision. But he also departs from Nyerere’s politics.

“Nyerere was a socialism who advocated common ownership, collective farming and the end of the exploitation of man by man. President Magufuli advocates capitalist, modernising development.

“Nyerere was an advocate of pan-African cooperation and the non-aligned movement. Magufuli has forsaken those differences.”

Following his victory, Mr Magufuli said: “Getting 84.4% is a sign of big faith that Tanzanians have on me. I want to sincerely say that I feel very much indebted, and I promise to repay that debt by working hard, day and night.”

But opposition leaders and analysts fear the so-called result has given the President a mandate to cement his power.

Dr Paget said: “This is an election that will probably go down as the end of democracy in Tanzania.

“Tanzania has always been authoritarian, but over the last five years it has undergone an extreme authoritarian transformation. This election takes this authoritarianism to new levels.

“There has never been so much apparent rigging and state brutality on the mainland.

“If the CCM gets a supermajority, expect it to try to set the foundations for its rule for the next 50 years.

“Expect CCM to try to re-establish the hegemony that it had lost. President Magufuli may consider writing a new constitution which embeds his new authoritarian architecture.”

He hinted Magufuli could also lift term limits and introduce new restrictions on media and parties and rallies.

Despite strong pre-election day polling, it appeared the government took no chances with the result, if allegations of electoral fraud are true.

“We cannot say for sure how widespread electoral fraud has been, but I am seeing allegations of electoral fraud from all over Tanzania,” Dr Paget noted.

“It may be very widespread, and so this election result may bear even less relation to peoples voting decisions than normal.”

Michaela Collord, a junior research fellow at Oxford University, told Al Jazeera that previously, the opposition party could expect to win in some constituencies – but not this time.

Having been decimated in the National Assembly as well, it’s likely they will struggle for resources in future elections.

Dr Paget told Redaction Politics: “There are two possible explanations. One is that CCM expected to lose and has committed electoral fraud to save its own skin.

“Another is that it wanted to win a supermajority that would puts is domination beyond all doubt.”

Dr Daniel Paget is a lecturer in politics at the University of Aberdeen. You can find his most recent publications below:

‘Mistaken for Populism: Magufuli, Ambiguity and Elitist Plebeianism in Tanzania.’ Journal of Political Ideologies first online (2020), 1-22.

‘Again, Making Tanzania Great: Magufuli’s Restorationist Developmental Nationalism.’ Democratization first online (2020), 1-21.


Featured Image: Issa Michuzi @ Wikimedia Commons

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