So claims a new poll. From The Citizen, the key findings:
A poll by the Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania (Redet) shows that the ruling party’s popularity has declined by half, from 60 per cent in 2006 to 32.6 per cent last year.Redet principal researcher, Dr Bernadeta Killian said the survey indicates that public support for opposition parties grew from 18 per cent in 2006 to 27 per cent in 2008.On President Kikwete, the poll shows that while he remained popular, confidence in his leadership fell from 90.1 per cent in 2006, to 79.4 per cent in 2007.
It dropped to 78.5 per cent in the latest poll. The President lost huge ground on public confidence with the percentage of those who said they did not trust him jumping from 7.8 per cent in 2006 to 19.3 per cent in the November 2008 poll.
Now, polls can be notoriously unreliable. Ask Hillary Clinton. They don’t necessarily foretell which way the electorate is going to vote. What they can provide, however, is a snapshot at a given moment of what voters are thinking. And the two most recent surveys (Read my review of the Steadman poll here), tell us that while the President remains enormously popular, his party is struggling. And the fall of support for the ruling party seems to have translated into significant gains for the opposition.
What does this mean? I think for the first time since the beginning of multiparty democracy in this country, voters are tentatively expressing a desire for divided government. They are clearly not yet sold on the opposition as a viable governing alternative. But i think it is reasonable to extrapolate from these two studies that they want a more powerful opposition presence in parliament. They are giving a serious listen to what the opposition are offering. The question then becomes, will the opposition take advantage of this opportunity or will they continue to be ill-defined, disorganised and listless, the way they have been in the last 15 years? The next 18 months should give us an answer.