A few days ago, Steadman Group, the research and media monitoring firm which does a lot of work in sub-saharan Africa, released a poll on Tanzania that made for some interesting reading. From the Daily News:
President Jakaya Kikwete remains outstanding in leaders’ popularity rating by 62 percent…The research findings show that the National Chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF), Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba and the National Chairman of Chadema, Mr. Freeman Mbowe, are the president’s closest contenders, tying at 14 percent in popularity rating.
After a difficult year politically, State House will justifiably feel emboldened by this news. And by any standard these numbers are impressive. If Mr. Kikwete’s approval rating remain this high going into the general election in 2010, it should translate into another huge landslide for him and his party.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that his current popularity is a significant drop from when he was first elected in 2005. Four years ago he won 80% of the popular vote to become Tanzania’s fourth President. So looking at the poll from this perspective, it does suggest a significant loss of trust in Mr. Kikwete’s ability to govern. This is why only 41% of voters approve of the government’s overall performance in the last twelve months. While it hasn’t yet gnawed on the personal popularity of the President, it definitely will if voters don’t notice any improvements in the coming year.
The poll also implies that if the elections were held today, the opposition parties would garner over 30% of the vote. If something close to this were to ever happen here it would completely transform politics in this country. It would probably mean a more effective opposition in parliament and hopefully give a much needed jolt to Tanzania’s democracy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A year is a long time in politics and with the opposition as it is currently constituted, such a change is still unlikely. However, for the first time since the multiparty system was introduced, a significant bloc of voters are signaling that they are prepared to listen to an alternative. Whether they will in the end actually vote for one is difficult to predict. But it is still a significant development. How the political parties deal with this new reality in the next few months will be interesting to watch. (Photo courtesy of jakayakikwete.com)
UPDATE: The same poll indicates that folks from the isles are heading for yet another nail biter. Here is the intriguing little nugget:
Tanzanians are likely to vote for either Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad (23 per cent) or Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal (21 per cent) respectively as the next Zanzibar president.