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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Joshua Nassari and misplaced party victories and defeats

8th April 2012

It was Gottfried Goethe, the great German classical music master, who said, “We only see what we know,” implying that when we see something it fits some pattern that we already have in the mind - not that every image has a pattern in our minds, but a workable ideal type.

One psychologist is known to have asserted that “we don't learn anything new after age 35,” meaning that at that point our minds are settled, and whatever comes after that will in a sense be a continuation or repetition of something we already know – or accept.

That also covers how we interpret success or failure in polls.

Following the victory of Chadema’s candidate Joshua Nassari in the Arumeru East by-election, the whole week was mired in celebrations and lamentations, the winning party shouting its 'tigritude' to the sky - to borrow a leaf from noted Nigerian dramatist, essayist and activist Wole Soyinka.

Chadema was demonstrating its having been accepted by the people, and thus won the polls. This trend is said to have been repeated in a number of areas where by-elections were held to fill vacant positions for ward councillors after those who won in the 2010 general election passed away. Thus CCM won more seats in 2010 and not in the by-elections.

One way of explaining something is to find out if there is a pattern in which it fits with something else, as a covering feature or factor associated with their similarity could possibly be substantive enough in real life for the two to be related in that manner.

In that case if those who passed away and led to the holding of by-elections were mainly CCM people (one MP and several ward councillors) and those who won in the by-elections were mainly Chadema candidates, it is possible that there is a pattern that is worth explaining. Other explanatory parameters would then have to be reconciled with this aspect as it stands.

In a momentary sense, there has been a shift in what people want from supporting CCM candidates in the 2010 polls to opting for Chadema candidates in by-elections, and no one will object to Chadema seeing in that situation a plus for their campaign effort. They may even go further and consider it a late vindication of their 2010 campaign as a whole.

That a full year and a quarter in the second mandate of the incumbent president, those who see the validity or truthfulness of the Chadema position are increasing. But that risks committing a Goethic fallacy, that this is precisely what their minds will tend to see.

To figure out what has happened in the Arumeru East by-election and, indeed, among civic polls elsewhere, it is proper to seek out an explanatory model that conditions interpretation as to what parliamentary elections are all about and where by-elections fit in.

Put simply, the 1965 study of one-party competitive parliamentary elections established that each constituency has its issues being fought for in the polls. In which case, for 1965 it was a 'story of 101 elections,' by the number of constituencies. In that case there was more of an Arumeru-East parliamentary by-election scenario, with parties being just the background.

On the basis of the localized particularity of parliamentary elections, it would follow that the crucial aspect was the contest between individuals and not between parties. In which case one can examine that dimension to find if some indicators of the pattern of voting emerges. What quickly comes to the fore is that the elder Sumari, the former MP Jeremiah Sumari who died lately, was the stronger parliamentary aspirant in 2010, followed by Nassari. In Sumari's absence Nassari takes the helm, overtaking the son.

It is more or less what occurred in the 2002 Kenyan presidential elections that incumbent President Daniel arap Moi sought by all means to ensure that the presidency returned to the conservative Kikuyu heartland of KANU politics, now that he could not forge an electable Kalenjin-based nationwide alliance.

In the circumstances he ensured that KANU propped up the candidacy of Uhuru Kenyatta, then a 'baby' at such a level of political contention, in which case the Democratic Party, led by ex-vice-president Mwai Kibaki, won. With Kibaki ending his second term, Uhuru is now the leading conservative candidate against Raila Odinga, prime minister of a 'peace of the brave' coalition which is far more workable than Zimbabwe’s.

What this suggests is that a hierarchy was created among the aspirants to parliament in Arumeru East, where the leading aspirant was Jeremiah Sumari who contested on the CCM ticket. His nearest challenger was Joshua Nassari, and partly because he figured he could not defeat the leading aspirant or incumbent MP, as the case then was, he opted to seek the nomination in Chadema, which isn't to underline real opposition politics but opportunity.

Those close to the area say that Nassari's father was a CCM leader in the area, making him a later-day Makongoro Nyerere who took to the podium to blast his father in poll campaigns in 1995.

In that case, it was only a matter of hierarchy that after the death of Jeremiah Sumari, which came so soon after the 2010 poll run, with the people still somewhat 'exhausted' and no one had started rallying people to himself for the 2015 run, a snap poll recreated the 2010 loyalties.

There was an effort in CCM to find a proper replacement for the late Jeremiah Sumari, but as such a person would be the same one the late MP had fought tooth and nail in the run-up to the 2010 nomination, throwing loyalties to him that soon would prove difficult, and so CCM camped around Sumari's son. His conjugal loyalty was a bit of a non-issue.

Surprisingly, the two leading parties skirted these psychological issues around the two candidates and opted to focus on the national leaderships of the parties and how some of them were linked with the polls.

While local CCM leaders refused to camp around a proper replacement for Sumari because of the enmities of the 2010 polls, the national secretariat worked feverishly to obtain a replacement, as Sioi was 'tainted' with having married a daughter of Edward Lowassa, a laughing stock.

And while the voters knew that in the absence of Sumari the next best was Nassari, Chadema thought they chose its policies – endorsing its top leaders ready for the 2015 polls, as CCM is on a losing streak nationwide...

In that case there were two parallel electoral exercises in Arumeru East: the first a real one that pitted two rather familiar candidates on issues that are well known, where the two parties sought solutions which they both know were unworkable - returning horticultural land to peasants.

In that case the campaign was sterile, for it failed to face up to the issues, and posed return to communal land so that everyone just farms maize or tends cattle as the best economic policy there is, and clearly it wouldn't be implemented.

At any rate, by 2015 Nassari will most probably have stepped on so many toes already, so Sioi Sumari looks like he has cut his teeth into politics in a big way, like Uhuru did in 2002. However, clearly there is a while to go before he becomes the best.

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