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EIU too early on 2015 political shift

Tolstoy’s position is an important one I will come to allude to in the subsequent texts. At a time when President Jakaya Kikwete is doing his last term in office, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an independent business within The Economist Group, has pointed to a likelihood of the next head of state to come from Zanzibar. It is a political future scenario drawn using certain factors.

For some, the move by Economist Intelligence Unit makes for more interesting speculation. However, while I do not intend to engage in the analysis of what 2015 has for this country, let me comment on the matter.I highly respect the credentials of the personalities hinted at but what EIU came up with, I believe, will have to interact with many variables before 2015.The magazine, which came out in October, 2011, seemed explicit in drawing a 2015 future political scenario where  the next president (CCM flag bearer in a presidential election) may  come from the Isles. It pointed at 2005 candidates who made attempts then.

In 2005 elections, popular Zanzibar candidates who made attempts at Presidency were retired Prime Minister and continental icon Dr Salim Ahmed Salim and Ambassador Ali Karume. Zanzibar President, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein is also mentioned as one possible candidate. The publication notes, “if President Kikwete would want to repeat the ‘1985 history’ where the Zanzibar President then, Ali Hassan Mwinyi went on to become the  candidate and subsequently the Union President.”

It goes on: "secondly, there is a Zanzibari politician who is pointed at as likely to slot in his name for candidacy in 2015 .The name that comes up is  one  of those who made an attempt  at presidency in 2005, ”notes part of  article. The Magazine suggests that President Kikwete may use the strategy of his   party’s  'skin shedding' philosophy to break factions and networks of some cadres  in the party-who may be interested in contesting for presidency from mainland (it notes those may be a threat to the party).In a quick rebuttal, NEC-CCM Publicity and Ideology Secretary, Mr Nape Nnauye, says he was glad the publication had indeed concurred that the next president would come from the ruling CCM.  

However, Mr Nnauye subsequently put a disclaimer, “we don’t have any procedure of planning positions or procedurally planning where the next leader should come from.” “Once that time comes and the president completes his term, that position is open to any party member, ”he said. In other words, there is no script. In the local blogsphere, speculation over who may become the next President has already turned to who will come in 2015, but much of it, I should opine, is driven by sentiments as opposed to fact.

The usual suspects have already come up for mention. This debate sort of  turns public focus from current issues of public policy to sentimental political debate, such that by the time 2015 comes, we shall realize how we will have failed to live lives ,only engrained in who comes as the number one citizen  in 2015. In the same line, the major pitfall for such futuristic scenarios drawn using present events is that many things of significance happen prior to any election. Some of these things matter more than what may have happened several years before.

Looking at a number of discussions in the  local blog sphere on this debate, it is clear that  some have  been involved in public debate, with a high propensity to be attracted to the obvious (which is often misleading) as opposed to the hidden (which is often the explanation). On that note, I view that there is a risk of some also getting attracted to   the simple but not clever as opposed to the complexity of the situation and to being sentimental instead of being analytical, especially with drawing likely future scenarios.

Let me use the UK and US example. Unlike in the UK, our presidents are elected directly. In the UK the electorate votes for the party and its leader becomes Prime Minister. This system as has been showed in the US means that the electorate won’t vote for personalities over policy, and therefore likable, well known personalities are likely to be successful as opposed to technocratic, doers with wooden personalities.  This is an important distinction that should not be overlooked.

Just to use the UK example again, a candidate can propel himself or herself to the top of  his/her party and during election time the party machinery will ensure he/she is elected while in the US presidential candidates , though helped by the party, find that they are running more on personal merits.Back in Tanzania, parties and party policies matter as well even as sometimes personalities. For example, over the last 34 years no one comes closer or near universal face recognition in this country than the incumbent political party in terms of strength and popularity. This gives it extra advantage over its challengers in any electoral campaigns in the country for several years to come.

And one thing that the ‘Economic Intelligence Unit’ publication fails to point out is that there lies a problem in focusing at personalities as opposed to what the parties will be standing for at the time. In building parties around personalities, the party structures are subjugated to the leading personality of the day to the detriment of long term sustainability of any political party.With such a scenario drawn by  the Economic Intelligence Unit publication, some  can expect to see infighting within political parties as the contenders jostle for power without credible party structures to moderate tempers and mediate between contending factions within a specific political party.
 
Barring any accidents, expect subsequent elections in this country to be about cross cutting issues, namely the economy and less and less about personalities. Yet, as more politicians get seduced by the possibility of making it to State House, for now, let us pay more heed to building the country’s economic structures. Come 2015, politicians should not be caught flatfooted when all their teams should be making the campaigns about the future, read the youth and less about the past–textbook tactics for a running incumbent. While EIU’s report may be important development in the country’s political future, only time will tell the significance of its significance.

SOMETIME in June 1996, as ...

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Author: ORTON KIISHWEKO

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