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Thursday, October 21, 2010

WHY SLAA COULD WIN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ON SUNDAY 31 OCTOBER 2010

This is a sequel to my article on ‘Election campaigns and the politics of performance’. Therein we looked at the power of performance. Now we look at the power of psychology and personality.
 


It is quite clear that Dr. Wilbrod Slaa’s decision to run as a presidential candidate has tilted the balance of power. Now the debate is no longer about whether the ruling party’s candidate will get a landslide victory - as in the previous election. Rather, it is about by how much that victory will be cut.
 


For the more optimistic, who draw inspiration from the rise of Barack Obama against all odds, everything is possible. However, to the more cautious, who have not forgotten how the then celebrated Augustine Mrema did not become the president in 1995, this is a delusional hype. ‘Yes Slaa can’ is thus pitted against ‘No Slaa cannot’. 


Frankly, I think it needs nothing short of a miracle for Slaa to win. But there is something in this election that is different from previous elections. It is coming at a time when, for a combination of reasons, many more people have registered to vote. So, it is difficult to have a situation, like the one we had in 1995, when one opposition party’s candidate blamed the massive crowds who attended his campaigns for his loss. Why? Simply because they could not and did not vote as they were not registered.

This time the crowd matters. As I said during the registration period, a number of people - including many youth - have registered not necessarily because they want (ed) to vote. All they need (ed) was a card that will help, particularly the unemployed, have a sense of identification when opening a bank account or, as a colleague alerted me recently, to register a Sim card. It is in this regard that at 19,670,631 - the official figure in the National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) permanent voter’s register - nearly half of the population is eligible to vote in this election.

Now, regardless of political parties’ weaknesses in data storage and processing, it is a well-known fact that, in terms of membership, the ruling party can hardly boast a quarter of that number. This implies that many of those who have registered, including myself, are the swing voters. We can swing either way in terms of the personality and policy of the candidate.
 


This is what happened in 2005 when the ruling party fielded a very attractive personality. It is now happening as one of the opposition parties has fielded a very influential personality. But that is not enough to make Slaa overcome the strength or experience of the ruling party election machinery. It is another factor, what I call a reverse bystander effect, that can do this.
 


In social psychology a ‘bystander effect’ happens when a number of people - the bystanders - in an emergency situation increases. This causes a diffusion of responsibility as they end up thinking that someone else will intervene. In such cases an emergency can simply pass on unattended to.

One can hardly claim it to be treason to state that in a way the country has been in a ‘state of emergency’. The war on grand corruption is too overwhelming. Its attendant impoverishment is unbearable. The voters are desperate for change. Slaa is indeed using this as his policy ace card. What I am observing so far is some sort of a reverse bystander - or maybe I should call it ‘byvoter’ - effect. Increasingly, people are deciding to vote for Slaa since they think most people will vote for the ruling party’s candidate anyway.

Coupled with massive voter awareness and election campaigns, it is possible that Slaa will win the presidential seat. But, again, it is also quite possible that Slaa will be a ‘lame’ president since it is very likely that the ruling party will have a majority of seats in parliament. I am not sure how well prepared the Constitution is to deal with such an outcome. One thing I am very sure of: such an eventuality will open a new chapter in Tanzania’s quest for democratic constitutional reform. Slaa may not become president. But his candidature is democratising us. Either way he wins.

Source: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/67336

2 comments:

Anonymous October 23, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

I hate this tendecy of Tanzanians refering to 1995 Mrema's experience! This is nonesense! Why do we think narrowly like this with such a handicaped minds?

Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 9:43 AM  

HATA WAKATI HUO MREMA ALIONGOGA KATIKA SIKU YA KWANZA YA UCHAGUZI KIASI KWAMBA ILIBID MAENEO YOTE YALE ALIYOONGOZA UPIGAJI KURA URUDIWE NA HATA HIVYO KARATASI ZA KUPIGIA KURA ZILIKOSEKANA! TUKUMBUKE ILICHUKUWA WIKI MOJA KUMALIZA UPIGAJI KURA, HUO NDIO ULIKUWA UCHAGUZI ULIOCHUKUA MUDA MREFU KULIKO CHAGUZI ZOTE NCHINI, HUU NDIO UKWELI.

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