Political Institutions and Culture in Tanzania

Comparatively, the political institutions and political culture of Tanzania are relatively stable and have allowed for the development of a fairly representative, and democratic, system of governance to emerge. Since 1992, Tanzania has employed a multiparty system that allows for political expression through the National Assembly and Presidency (Pallotti). However, in spite of the multiparty system, governance has been dominated by a singular party, the CCM, since the state’s independence. Scholars have attributed the party’s control of power due to the weakness of social bases in society (Kelsall). The majority of opposition parties have been unable to garner mass support, or to appeal to across various political and ethnic differences.

The multitude of conflicting political opinions and existence of small ethnic groups–127– limits the ability of the National Assembly to create effective impact (Kelsall). However, the political culture is generally one of support for the government and consensus, which allows the political institutions to maintain control. In the 1990s and 2000s, political systems were organized in vertical networks, exemplifying the extensive practice of neopatrimonialism (Kelsall). Patronage politics was evidenced by a system of “vote buying;” however, due to the domination of the CCM party, individuals outside of the ruling party did not have much effect as a whole. Moreover, political struggles were often the result of neopatrimonialism, including issues related to corruption and rampant poverty.

The current president of Tanzania, Magfuli, has instituted a number of reforms aimed at fighting corruption and ending the legacy of neopatrimonialism. He is generally well reputed for his honesty and dedication to improving economic performance. However, unrest and protests have increased in recent years, especially since the 2015 election. Recently there have been limits placed on the media and political activity, and opposition groups are blaming the government for a lack of transparency and claiming that Magfuli is a dictator (Malanga). These opposition groups are attempting to compete with the CCM and are pushing the blame of recent unrest on the CCM, claiming they are using it as a way to maintain power.

Despite recent unrest, Tanzania functions as a largely successful democracy and has experienced transitions of power between leaders, even if those leaders are from the same political party. Magfuli’s efforts to end corruption are an important step forward for political institutions to become more reputable and representative. Furthermore, Tanzania is working hard to improve its weak economy: for a democratic state, its economy does not reflect the same evidence of growth seen elsewhere. The state does enjoy a vibrant tourism industry, due to Kilimanjaro and national parks, which helps bring in a steady flow of revenue; thus, it is in their interest to maintain good relations with the international community. The relative stability of Tanzania’s political institutions and political culture, as well as its ability to function as a unified state with little internal strife, remains promising for both the economic and political future of the state. The government should work to further develop foreign policy plans that will help stimulate economic growth, a prospect that is plausible, assuming Tanzania continues to enjoy domestic stability.

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Kelsall, Tim. “Governance, Democracy, and Recent Political Struggles in Mainland Tanzania.” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 41.2 (2003): 55-82. Taylor & Francis Online. Web.

Malanga, Alex. “Tanzanian Diaspora Weigh in On ‘Unrest'” The Citizen. All Africa, 31 Aug. 2016. Web.  (http://allafrica.com/stories/201608310308.html)

Pallotti, Arrigo. “Tanzania: Decentralising Power or Spreading Poverty?” Review of African Political Economy 35.116 (2008): 221-35. Web.

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