CCM marked 42 years since it was formed as a merger of Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) and Afro-Shiraz Party (ASP). The event was low key this time around, and except for some towns like Dodoma, where CCM roots are deep, and the flags of the ruling were placed in many places for everyone to notice, and be reminded of the big day, elsewhere it passed unnoticed.
Within the East African Community (EAC), for the countries which gained their political independence in the 1960s, CCM has outlasted all the other political parties which were powerful and influential during that era. As far as Niccolo Machiavelli is concerned, where political success of rulers is, among other things, measured in terms of one’s longevity in power, it is the most successful political party in the region.
There is plenty of company for CCM especially in Southern Africa where long ruling parties still dominate the political landscape minus a few casualties along the way notably in Zambia and Malawi or in Lesotho which has witnessed political instability over the years since independence courtesy of its volatile politics. Otherwise, the parties of independence and liberation struggle have continued to hold onto power with the biggest challenges facing them being internal wrangles which in some cases have escalated to political assassinations.
CCM’s longevity in power is down to so many different reasons. An illustrious past especially on the country’s engagement with the rest of the world, to visionary leaders who delivered independence to the shrinking political space of the multiparty era, presenting some credible policy options, and the continued change of its leadership after every five years with a precision of a clock, providing the rest of the country with an ever evolving political target to praise or criticise. There is the lack of credible political alternatives too, especially on the Mainland.
An unrivalled network which in some cases extends beyond the state’s reach, and it is a very wealthy party.
There is the question of perception too. In the words of a character in a wildly popular American television series, “power resides where men believe it resides.”
This medieval way of looking at power is still relevant today and one does not need to look very far to find the manifestations for this. During elections for instance, there is a good number of would-be voters who make their choices solely on the basis of not wanting to “waste” their votes. There are those who do not bother to show up on polling stations as well for the same reason.
The long list of defectors as of recent who have decamped to the ruling party from the opposition as well are a testament to this perception of power.
Critics of the long ruling party argue that for the country needs another “liberation”, and that for the country’s better chance at development lies with the opposition. CCM supporters see opposition parties as opportunists with no credible policies to govern the country and see suggestions of another liberation so provocative, that they do not mince their words in condemning opposition politicians who claim that much.
CCM members needless to say are satisfied with the prospects of the future for their party. It is does not seem to be a party headed for political loss in the next general election where it is almost guaranteed to keep the presidencies and its majority in parliament.
The future though is forever capricious. Can CCM manage to keep its vast network throughout the country if the day comes the party is in opposition? Can it keep attracting new members even as an opposition party?
As CCM celebrates its 42 years, the challenges ahead will give its leaders headaches. It has come to rely on individual members to keep the party’s fire burning bright each election time. The newcomers who know so little to nothing about the party’s history, ideology and its values. And, for all its ability to adapt to new circumstances, like the rest of the political parties in this country, CCM has not managed to capture the imagination of the growing population of the youth who will be critical to any plans for CCM to extend its longevity in power.
They are restless and have no loyalty to anyone except their dreams and ambitions of the future.