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Difficult to break one-party domination in Tanzania

December 9, 2009

Opposition parties in Tanzania have still not managed to convincevoters that they are capable of running the country since the introduction of a multiparty system at the beginning of the 1990s. According to a new thesis at the University of Gothenburg, instead of  losing its dominant position, the ruling party, CCM, has consistently strengthened its position in parliament following each election.

“Strengthening democracy in Tanzania is not just about establishing
the formal structures for a multiparty system. It’s also about
creating understanding at an individual level of how a multiparty
system promotes democracy in a country,” says Petri Ruotsalainen, who has been studying the process of democratisation in Tanzania.

The thesis on peace and development research investigates the reasons
behind the ruling party’s persistently strong position, and examines
the opportunities and obstacles that may exist in relation to
consolidating a democratic multiparty system in Tanzania.

“When the multiparty system was introduced and people were supposed to start voting for different parties, many were extremely afraid that there would be massacres in Tanzania similar to those that occurred in Rwanda,” says Petri Ruotsalainen. Another picture of the democratisation process
The political democratisation process

Petri Ruotsalainen has studied the rural population in Tanzania’s
experience of the transition from a one-party system to a multiparty
system based on the political democratisation process in the country,
and through anthropological field work.

The thesis reveals a picture of the democratisation process that
differs from the traditional western view. Tanzanians are used to a
one-party system, and the country has experienced domestic peace,
unity and harmony since it gained independence, which cannot be said
of Tanzania’s neighbouring countries.

One of the conclusions of the thesis is that the country’s history of
having one party, a father of the nation such as Julius Nyerere, and
the political ambition of upholding peace, unity and harmony in the
country has been used as an argument against a multiparty system,
which manifests itself in a strong level of support for CCM at election time.
“The ruling party also uses these concepts to show the electorate that
they are the only party that can guarantee these values. This gives
the party a special and unique position, which the opposition parties
are unable to compete with,” says Petri Ruotsalainen.

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