Why Magufuli will win a second term in office

09Jan 2019
By Financial Times Reporter
Dar es Salaam
Financial Times
Why Magufuli will win a second term in office
  • 'NO EFFECTIVE COMPETITION' Tanzania's main opposition parties made big political gains in the 2015 general election, but the opposition movement has weakened since the last polls and will likely perform poorly in 2020, according to leading global analysts

PRESIDENT John Magufuli is widely expected to win re-election next year despite impressive gains made by the opposition in the 2015 general election and the likelihood of a slowdown in economic growth, according to new comprehensive reports of two leading international think tanks.

PRESIDENT John Magufuli

In its five-year outlook for Tanzania, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) says the country will remain relatively politically stable compared to the turbulence being experienced in some neighbouring countries, underpinned by the continued dominance of the ruling party.

Magufuli will win a second term in office as the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is seen extending its firm grip on power in the 2020 general elections and beyond, the UK think tank said in its latest country report for Tanzania, seen by the Financial Times.

"Tanzania's political situation will remain broadly stable in 2019-23, with the president, John Magufuli, and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, the long-standing ruling party) forecast to remain in power," the EIU said.

"CCM will continue to dominate the domestic political landscape while benefiting from a weakening opposition, as shown by the defection to CCM of several opposition members of parliament. The two main opposition parties, CHADEMA and the Civic United Front (CUF), made political gains in the 2015 legislative election (securing 66 seats, up from 47 in the 2010 election), but the opposition movement has weakened since."

Similarly, Fitch Solutions, a US-based think tank that provides credit market data, analytical tools and risk services to the global financial community, issued a similar political outlook on Tanzania in a separate report.

"Tanzania's high short-term political risk score of 63.8 out of 100 is reflective of the country's historic stability, having avoided major conflict – both internal and external – since independence in 1961," Fitch Solutions said in its Tanzania Country Risk report for Q1 2019 (January-March).

"The country also scores highly in the 'policymaking process' sub-component of our score, testament to the strength of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which faces no effective opposition on the mainland."

The EIU said CCM’s continued dominance is underlined by its “well-oiled party machinery” and robust grass-roots support in its rural heartlands.

“The opposition will attempt to leverage growing discontent over the restrictions on democratic freedoms and Magufuli's declining popularity, but we expect its campaign to be impeded by an uneven playing field (notably, the vast funds at the ruling party's disposal and repressive rules impeding political mobilisation) and the high risk of further defections. Accordingly, we expect the opposition to perform poorly at the next elections,” it said.

Political risks abound

However, Fitch Solutions noted that in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, where the CUF has shown itself capable of mounting a serious challenge to CCM's rule, tensions have regularly sprung up and caused instability in the short term.

The two global think tanks warned that despite the stable political outlook, allegations of authoritarian leadership and shrinking democratic space could pose some risks to the country.

"Following the election of President John Magufuli in 2015, a number of observers have expressed concern about the administration's increasing hostility to opposition and freedom of media...any further shift towards authoritarian behaviour could also increase chances of social unrest, particularly in the months close to the 2020 election," said Fitch Solutions.

"However, we believe that these are unlikely to lead to any meaningful change in the political status quo across the next decade."
Likewise, the Economist Intelligence Unit said opposition demands for broader democracy could threaten the country’s stability, but law enforcement agents are primed to quell any politically-related violence.

“Amid limited space for political dissent, several MPs have defected to the ruling CCM seeking to reap the benefits of incumbency. With the opposition becoming increasingly fractious and the government loath to adapt to a more pluralistic landscape, tensions among the political elite are likely,” the EIU noted.

“A narrowing of the democratic channels for political opposition will fuel discontent in the run-up to elections in 2020, but The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the pro-government police force to contain unrest well before it poses a threat to underlying stability.”

The leaders of the country’s main opposition parties met in Zanzibar last month and issued a declaration on their joint resolution to fight for democracy in 2019, citing bans on political rallies and other concerns.

Shift towards economic nationalism?

“Tanzania is facing backsliding of democracy, with all signs pointing to institutionalisation of an authoritarian rule that ignores political, social and economic rights of our people,” opposition leaders said in their strongly-worded declaration.

“The situation is no longer tolerable…enough is enough. We pronounce that 2019 is a year of reclaiming our democracy and taking back our powers and rights.”

On the economic front, despite the government’s predictions that the economy will continue to grow by an average seven per cent annually, the outlook of the think tanks on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is subdued.

Erratic policymaking will likely deter private investment and lead to a slowdown of economic growth, the analysts warned, with the EIU predicting that Tanzania’s GDP will average just above five per cent, well below the government’s seven per cent target.

“The government's economic policy agenda will remain inconsistent and continue to lean towards economic nationalism…we expect private investment to fall short of what is needed to achieve the government's development goals,” said the EIU.

“Trade policy will also retain a protectionist slant, thereby impeding the government's envisaged growth trajectory. The mining industry will be a particular victim of this agenda, with a ban on unprocessed mineral exports despite no viable means of processing minerals locally and a strict regulatory framework eroding the sector's attractiveness.

“The government's aggressive approach to tax disputes with companies, coupled with moves to revoke companies' right to international arbitration, will stoke concerns across sectors over the state's openness to foreign businesses,” it warned.

“Fearing an exodus of foreign capital, the government is likely to stop short of forced expropriation of private assets, but it will probably pursue some policies that further its lurch towards economic nationalism.