It’s now official, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been elected as the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) national chairperson by 100 percent votes of yes from 1862 members who cast their votes in the capital Dodoma today, April 30, 2021. President Samia is a renowned party insider, with a membership that stems back to 1987 and she has held top party positions, including serving as a member of CCM Central Committee (CC) and a member of CCM’s National Executive Committee (NEC) for 20 years. Compared to his predecessor, the late president John Magufuli, who never held any party position before chairmanship, President Samia’s roots are as green and yellow as her party’s flag.
To CCM, having a chairperson who has been in the system and knows the politics of the system is an enormous resource. This is from the background that for the past five years people who were considered not having significant roots in the party had managed to climb to the top in a matter of days, such as the former CCM Secretary-General Dr Bashiru Ally, who never held any position in the party before his 2018 appointment.
As an insider, Samia is a new breath and life to some people who were sidelined during the previous administration. These include past senior party leaders who had a fall out with the the Magufuli administration, like former CCM Secretary Generals Mr Abdulrahman Kinana and Mr Yusuf Makamba. On the list are also young and vibrant members of the party such as Mr Nape Nnauye, the former CCM Secretary for Ideology and Publicity; and January Makamba who were marked as bad apples.
There’s also a hope that the new chairperson will take the party back to its history of internal democracy that many think also fell victim to the previous administration. CCM is known for its custom of internally embracing competition and diversity of voices but it was foiled in the clout of party obedience to its top leadership. One way in which the attack on this custom was visible in the past five years was through the availability of CCM’s candidates to run for various posts of leadership, including as a Member of Parliament. While party members had the opportunity to vote for people who intended to run for office, the real power to approve the actual candidate lied on the hands of the chairperson.
To CCM, it’s important for the Head of State to be the chairperson of the party as it’s a system that feeds off each other, somehow the strength of the party is enriched by the state power. While the system is flawed as far as citizens’ rights go, to CCM it works, and it guarantees their existence. However, the system was not working for the CCM members as they had expected. In a bid of showing the popularity of the leadership, the outgoing CCM administration had a scheme of recruiting members of opposition parties and reward the few who cross sides with various lucrative positions in the government. The system was working against seasonal CCM members and, clearly, this is one of the areas that they had expected to see changing. As an insider who understands the incentives for push and pulls in CCM, it’s clear many CCM are hoping Samia to make the system work for them again.
For people outside the party, like the Tanzania’s opposition parties and members of the general public, the main expectation is in returning to healthy political pluralism. Over the last five years on both the civic election and the general election CCM has done nothing of a sort of political competition. There was over-reliance on the state machinery, that is, the election bodies and security apparatus, and even in areas where they had strong candidates, the party was still depending on macho ways of doing politics. Mr Nnauye was recently quoted as saying that CCM used to use a civic election to test itself and those new tactics used such as relying on state bodies to disqualify candidates from opposition parties is not a good way forward.
President Samia being an insider, people hope, perhaps she can steer the party back to the days where they at least appear to compete in elections and not just over-reliance on state machinery.