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Party System and Dynamics in Tanzania

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2422 words Published: 11th Sep 2017

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Over the course of history, political scientists have attempted to create social laws that can explain and predict how government functions. One of the most famous examples of this law is Duverger’s Law. Duverger’s Law proposes that FPTP (first-past-the-post) electoral systems produce party systems in which two major parties competitively vie for power. This hypothesis comes from the definition of winning used in electoral systems. Since winning is defined as getting as many votes as possible to gain a majority vote (+50%), it is only natural that two major parties emerge (Riker 1982). However, looking at the case of the African country, Tanzania, Duverger’s Law is not clearly applicable and the lines defining major parties become muddled. In short, the law does not hold in this specific case and should be discarded when examining Tanzanian politics.

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To examine the party system and dynamics in Tanzania, one must look closely at the circumstances concerning its inception. After gaining independence from the UK, Tanzania was ruled by a single party known as TANU, after the party intimidated all other parties to extinction in 1963 (Ngasongwa, 1992). However, the 2nd president of Tanzania of the CCM Party, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, formed a commission known as the Nyalali Commission which amended the constitution in 1992 and allowed any political party to run for presidency (Tambila 1995). This ushered a multi-party political system along with more varied competition into the country.

However, looking superficially at election data from 1992 onwards, a single party, the CCM, dominates Tanzanian election polls. Since 1992, the party wins the presidential and legislative elections with a margin of more than 60%, even reaching almost 80% in the 2005 presidential elections. This means that 20% to 40% of the votes are divided between the lesser parties (Elections in Tanzania 2011). This considerable discrepancy puts a serious limitation on the application of Duverger’s Law on the country. There is virtually no other party competing with the CCM and one cannot help but wonder if Tanzania is slowly returning to a state with an informal one party system.

Duverger’s Law fails to explain Tanzania’s current political party system for two reasons:

  1. Tanzania is not a multi-party system, but instead is a single party system feigning democracy.
  2. Duverger’s Law fails to account for the various political pressures and institutions that affect the way a country is run. It does not consider corruption, pressures exerted by foreign governments, conditional foreign aid, and postcolonial legacies that insidiously affect politics.

Tanzania’s dysfunctional party system becomes clearer when looking at the results of the 2005 presidential election where CCM faced the biggest threat to its power. Polling lower than ever before, they narrowly won the Tanzanian Presidential elections with 58.46% of the vote. In Zanzibar (an autonomous entity part of Tanzania), leader of the opposition party CUF announced that he won the vote over CCM. What followed was bizarre. The chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Committee annulled the vote and in the following election, the CCM won more than 90% of the votes along with most of the legislative seats offered. With limitations on opposing political parties and increasingly restrictive free speech (Tanzanian government threatened to suspend 30 news outlets and closed another two), Tanzanian politics now carries an undemocratic atmosphere (Roop, Weghorst 2016).

Two factors can explain this strange turn into an arguably undemocratic country. The opposition is weak and disorganized and the CCM is viewed as a benevolent political party by the citizens, thus weakening any resolve for change. Also, the opposition lacks the resources available to the CCM and the CCM has plenty tactics to employ to suppress opposition. According to Hoffman and Robinson, “The CCM employs three strategies to impede its competitors: 1) regulating political competition, the media, and civil society; 2) blurring the boundary between the party and state; and 3) the targeted use of blatantly coercive illegal actions” (2009). Such practices directly conflict with the characterization of Tanzania as a democratic state. Hoffman and Robinson corroborate this and argue that Tanzania is now a single party authoritarian regime.

If Tanzania is not a democratic state and only has one party, then Duverger’s Law is automatically out of the question. However, if CCM is really that authoritarian, why would it be the party responsible for turning Tanzania into a multi-party system? The answer to this question is also the answer to why Duverger’s Law cannot be applicable in cases where there are many complex political forces at play. In Samuel Huntington’s book, The Third Wave (1991), he argues for transplacement which is when a ruling party initiates a certain change and molds the rules to its benefit. This is arguably what CCM did.

In another dimension, according to Nyirabu in a kindlier assessment, the CCM’s top leaders saw that democracy was sweeping the world and decided that Tanzania should also welcome it with open arms, since there would be no point in resisting global change (2002). Although a beautiful and open invitation, it is not that simple. Tanzania’s foreign aid must be considered when looking at its turn into democracy. It is in this key point where Duverger’s Law also fails. Tanzania was receiving more than 30% of the country’s GDP in foreign aid. The donors were pressuring the ruling party, CCM, to accept a democratic system that allowed multiple parties to exist in the political sphere (Hoffman, Robinson 2009). Thus, the meddling and pressure on CCM helped shape the party nature present in Tanzania today by giving CCM the incentive it needed to create a political institution where it reigns supreme.

Duverger’s Law also fails because it does not consider the attitudes of the people of Tanzania. According to a 2008 Afrobarometer survey, 90% of respondents said they felt closest to the CCM party and 76% of respondents said if elections were to be held soon, they would vote for the CCM party. This complacence with authority has colonial roots. As argued by Schneider, Tanzanian political imagination is corrupted with colonial images where citizens constantly compare their current situation to their much-worse situation during colonialism. State elites and officials also construct a paternal and nationalistic image for themselves that makes citizens see themselves as wards of a loving state (2006). This recalling of colonial roots explains why CCM is the most popular party and how corruption of states goes unquestioned.

Finally, Duverger’s Law gives a uniquely Western perspective on politics that knows nothing of colonialism and ethnolinguistic divisions that occur during and after colonialism. To apply such a social law on a country that has been deeply affected by its colonialist past would be unwise. As argued by Mozaffar, Scarritt, and Galaich (2003) and van de Walle (2003), African democratic countries have deep ethnolinguistic challenges that cause party splintering per patronage, regardless of agenda or principles. Parties are divided according to history, clientelism and man-made institutions colonialist legacy imposes, such as race and favor, that can cause a huge shift in public opinion, party systems and opposition formation. Colonialism also leaves postcolonial countries in a dearth of political consciousness that is required to form healthy oppositional groups. It leaves countries with none of the experience needed to sustain a free and democratic country that entertains freedom (Bernhard, Weghorst 2014). Although these criteria are not directly applicable to Tanzania, they are important limitations to Duverger’s Law and must be taken into account, nonetheless.

While Duverger’s Law is useful in predicting political patterns, the theory fails to account for many important aspects in political parties’ development. This is seen especially in the case of Tanzania, where the Law is not clearly upheld. Duverger’s Law speaks more closely to Western experiences where stable and long-living political climates pervade. Amending the law to fit Tanzania would require much introspective analysis of other political factors that shape the country’s party dynamics. Also, the law can only apply to countries that have a flourishing democratic system with oppositional parties and this is not the apparent case with Tanzania.


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Huntington, Samuel P. The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman: U of Oklahoma Press, 1993. Print.

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Cleavages, and Party Systems in Africa’s Emerging Democracies.” American Political

Science Review 97.03 (2003): 379-90. Web.

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Nyirabu, Mohabe. “The Multiparty Reform Process in Tanzania: The Dominance of the Ruling

Party.” African Journal of Political Science 7.2 (2002): 99-112. Web.

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  1. Introduction
    1. Brief introduction to social laws and hypotheses
    2. Insert Duverger’s Law definition from paper handout
    3. Briefly explain the law in detail
      1. Reference Riker’s analyses regarding majority vote and FPTP systems.
        1. “If winning is defined as the most votes, that is, as a plurality, then one might reasonably expect a two-party system owing to the necessity under this definition of maximiz- ing votes.” (Riker, 1982)
    4. Mention case study: Tanzania
    5. Thesis: Duverger’s law doesn’t work in the case of Tanzania
  2. Body
    1. 1st paragraph:
      1. Explaining Tanzanian transition to multi-partism.
      2. Mention 8th Constitution amendment
      3. Explain historical context regarding Tanzanian political history.
      4. Ngasongwa’s 1992 paper on TANU’s hold on Tanzania
      5. Tambila’s 1995 paper on hopeful Tanzanian transition to actual democracy.
    2. 2nd paragraph:
      1. Mention election data from 1992 –
      2. Mention discrepancy with data and that CCM dominates the election polls
    3. 3rd paragraph:
      1. Why Duverger’s Law fails:
        1. Tanzania is not democratic and is a single party state
        2. Duverger’s law is largely Eurocentric and does not take into account the various challenges non-Western countries go through
    4. 4th paragraph:
      1. Explain first failure of Duverger’s Law with failed Zanzibar elections and restricting free speech
      2. 5th paragraph:
        1. Factors that cause this:
          1. CCM viewed as savior
          2. Weak, disorganized opposition with zero resources
        2. Explain oppositional lack of resources and CCM’s abundant wealth.
          1. Hoffman and Robinson’s paper
    5. 6th paragraph:
      1. Explain how CCM could both be the original usher of democracy and an oppressor
      2. Transplacement concept
    6. 7th paragraph:
      1. Foreign aid’s effect on transplacement
      2. Why CCM transitioned to democratic state (to continue foreign aid receival and ensure power)
    7. 8th paragraph:
      1. Attitudes of people towards CCM
      2. Colonial images haunting people’s outlook
        1. Schneider’s paper
      3. Paternal image of officials
      4. How this affects CCM’s rise of power and continuous consolidation of it
    8. 9th paragraph:
      1. Colonial effects on oppositional formation
        1. No knowledge of how to run democratic state
        2. Deep fissures in society
        3. Deep ethnolinguistic problems
        4. Opposition divided based on bloodlines
          1. Mention Mozaffer and Bernhard papers referencing this dilemma
      2. Duverger’s Law=largely Eurocentric
  3. Conclusion
    1. Duverger’s Law not applicable to Tanzania for above reasons
    2. Amendment would require in depth work


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