Democracy in Africa has largely been based on the ruling political parties which in most countries have been labeled as illiberal autocracies. With the ruling parties being largely dominant, democracy in Africa has been taking the side of authoritarianism where competition is being regarded as unhealthy and even to an extent harmful. This means that the ruling parties are slowly reincarnating and vouching for the single-party system that ruled the continent in the past decades. As a result of this, there has been destabilization of the opposition and other parties within the political system by the dominant ruling parties in most countries such as Senegal and Tanzania through politics of patronage and even other extra legal means. This has led to the restriction of provision of social justice with the excuse of the process of democratization. There has also emerged other unnecessary means of maintenance of power in such countries including election malpractices, judiciary manipulation, and even the assassination of opponents in politics. Given the tendencies of the ruling parties in most African countries, this paper explores the arguments and practices made by these parties and their relation to the assumptions and promises in Tanzania and Senegal, while also taking into consideration the problems of social justice.
Ruling Political Parties Positions and Conceptual Issues
The rise of democracy in Africa and transition from military and single-party regimes can be attributed to the international development of politics as well as the domestic forces within various countries and the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Europe within the end of the twentieth century. Africa has therefore become increasingly re-democratized with multiparty elections being conducted in most countries, even though the elections rarely meet the threshold for the minimum international election standards. However, of greatest concern is the political space that is being limited by the ruling parties which have been seen as limiting the participation of other parties within the political system. Most of the ruling parties have the belief that there should be no competition or criticism and label that as unnecessary.
In Tanzania, after the initiation of a multi-party system, the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has continually used and applied the state machinery to consolidate its power. The party in its process of demeaning the opposition has continued to use various regional administrative authorities and state security for party political purposes such as organization of events and elections.The party has also installed its top leadership to double as state leaders and, therefore, the party can use the state resources and machinery without any resistance or opposition. Also, CCM has in most cases felt that opposition or civic criticism is unnecessary and has, therefore, declined to give civic education to inform the public of their political rights and role. As a result, the party has remained in power for a number of decades.
In Senegal, there have been mixed fortunes for the longest ruling party which was founded by Abdoulaye Wade in1974. But still, before being ousted from power in 2012, the party had long used the state machinery for its own benefits with the aim of demeaning the opposition. The Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), since its formation by Wade in 1974, had opposed the government until it came to power after which it started having a feeling that competition was unnecessary and harmful to the country’s democracy. Abdoulaye Wade proposed a constitution which restricted protests which to an extent can be viewed as limiting the efficacy of protest as a political tool. The Senegalese Democratic Party expanded the powers of the President, and most of his actions were deemed as demeaning the opposition.
Even though there has been political maturity in the country marked by the 2012 presidential elections where an opposition party won, there are a lot of disadvantages and challenges which are still being faced by these parties and largely brought about by the ruling party. The opposition parties when competing with the ruling parties always face inequalities in terms of resources at their disposal since there is neither public funding for the parties nor international funding.The ruling party, on the other hand, can use the resources of the state to campaign for support with the opposition leaders mostly using their own wealth.
Evaluation of Political Assumptions by Ruling Parties in Relation to Continent Experiences
Close to two decades after the introduction of liberal democracy in Tanzania, the country is seemingly suffering from hangovers of a single-party rule. The country can be classified as a single party state that exists within a political system with many parties. With the country’s politics being dominated by one party, it is only a single generation of the old guard that leads both the ruling and the opposition.This has led to traditional leadership and assumptions which are mostly focused on demeaning the opposition to consolidate their power. Tanzania, as any other African country which has experienced military and single-party state rule, has witnessed many challenges during the process of transition to a multi-party democracy. These challenges are in most cases instituted by the ruling party so as to lock out the opposition from gaining power.
In Tanzania, there are problems related to weaknesses in the tools of political parties including poor or lack of political ideologies and philosophies. There is also improper functioning of the party structures and processes with poor internal democracy which is a result of poor communication within the parties.The political assumptions of most ruling parties are still immature, but this is excusable given the consideration that the international community considers Africa a failed continent with Third World ideologies and philosophies. The development of politics within Tanzania is also curtailed by the lack of resources as well as political infiltration by wealthy personalities in the society who fund the political parties with the goal of maintaining their position and status quo.
Additionally, there have been poor political reforms at the base and grassroots with the top leadership, which is mostly found in the cities, being the main focus. Outreach in the grassroots has been poor even though it is an important factor in political development considering that a large part of the population lives in the rural areas. At the same time, the system of elections in Tanzania largely rewards the ruling political parties with parliamentary seats while locking out the small and growing parties.Private candidates are also in most cases suppressed or totally barred from running a political office which is undemocratic. With the many factors blocking the development and maturity of politics in Tanzania, which would otherwise have led to a competitive culture, it is predictable that the upcoming elections will always favor the ruling party.
In Senegal, the existence of democratic institutions is largely accepted on it-be basis. However, the capacity of the action of these institutions is limited by both physical and labor resources which have been taken advantage of by the ruling party. Such institutions are also marred with infighting as a result of political competition even though their legitimacy is rarely questioned by the political actors. Before the 2012 general elections, the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party had laid out political apparatus which was meant to prolong its stay in power. President Abdoulaye Wade may have had the assumptions that it would be possible to stay in power as long as he lived. As a result, he instituted tools and instruments which were meant to keep the ruling party in power. Being a continent which has been internationally labeled as backward, it is not surprising that Senegal has inefficient instruments to control elected leaders but effective apparatus that can suppress and hinder the opposition and civic groups.
In conclusion, the paper has analyzed the relationship that exists between political development and the ruling parties in both Tanzania and Senegal. It has examined the strategies that are being applied by the ruling parties in these countries to win elections and consolidate their position on power. Most of these strategies, which are largely effective in undermining the process of social justice and defying democratic logics, are excuses which are only present in the African continent. This has continually affected the process of democracy and led to serious dilemmas and political uncertainties within these countries. To solve these problems, it is important to introduce reforms within various political environments which would lead to the development of social justice. Political party reforms are also necessary to create a system that is competitive and democratic where each party has equal opportunities of winning elections apart from the ruling party. Lastly, it is important to develop political parties which have different ideologies and philosophies so as to prevent the development of a single-party rule.