Series 12: #ElectionsInTanzania2015: In an attempt to understand voting preferences based on Manin’s Prospective and Retrospective Voters

So I got very intellectually provoking response to my series 11 from a Mwanazuoni member – Michaela Collord. Her reaction was, I think, further provoked by Chambi Chachage’s reaction. Without wasting words here, I will quote both of these two reactions and then will write my brief analysis. (Chambi already thought I got the theory wrong, and I understand Michaela also thinks we are still arguing from different angles)

 Chambi’s response

In this sense, for the critical analysts/wasomi who seems to know ‘better’ than the so-called ‘confused electorates’, wananchi are desperate because they say “Lowassa kwanza, viwanda baadaye.” But the question is, what if they know there will be no ‘viwanda first’ with the same ‘party-state’ that ‘privatized viwanda’ in the first place’? What if wananchi knows better, experientially, than wanazuoni? Aren’t we also desperate?

Michaela’s response

I found your article very interesting Aikande, but I see Chambi’s point here. The slogan ‘Lowassa kwanza, viwanda baadaye’ (which of course could just as easily read ‘Fukuza CCM kwanza, viwanda baadaye’) recalls ideas of ‘retrospective voting’ in political science. 

Bernard Manin in his (very good) book The Principles of Representative Government distinguishes between ‘prospective’ and ‘retrospective’ voting, which refer to two different possible mechanisms whereby we (as voters) are able to hold our elected representatives to account. Manin argues that only ‘retrospective’ voting could actually work as a mechanism for enforcing accountability. Here’s why. 

If we think of voting as ‘prospective’, the idea is that we are voting for the candidates/party who we feel articulate the best policies and who we think will perform to our liking once in office. The problem here is that candidates can then promise anything and everything (e.g. they can all just promise ‘mabadiliko’, however defined). Once in office, nothing actually compels these freshly elected representatives to remain true to their campaign promises. The voters have already given them their votes (prospectively); they have no further power to hold their representatives to account. 

 Manin goes on to argue that the only accountability mechanism that can (logically at least) work as a basis for influencing representatives’ actions operates via ‘retrospective’ voting, i.e. voting on the record of the incumbent. If elected representatives know/expect that voters will judge them based on how they perform in office, if these representatives anticipate that by going against the desires of the electorate, they will get booted out at the next election, then these same representatives will begin to amend their behaviour to better suit what they believe the electorate wants (and not just offer up cheap promises). The trick is, representatives have to really believe/anticipate that voters will judge them on their record (and not simply continue to give them their vote out of ‘loyalty to the party’ or whatever).  

Now the whole prospective/retrospective thing has spawned a pretty big debate (and there are certainly grounds for questioning Manin’s analysis). But on a basic level, what Manin’s theory suggests about the upcoming elections (as I read it anyway) is that there is certainly a distinct logic to voting against CCM (even if one doesn’t have complete faith in Ukawa as a replacement). The idea would be to show that what representatives do while in power matters, and that the electorate will punish them for going astray. By forcing a handover in Tanzania, this would encourage politicians (from both CCM and Ukawa) to begin anticipating more keenly how the electorate will respond to their actions while in office. That anticipation then becomes the mechanism by which voters are empowered to hold their representatives to account. 

I don’t mean this as an endorsement of either CCM or Ukawa. I’m just giving a more long winded/jargon-filled analysis of what Chambi already put so succinctly.  

My analysis

I think the “retrospective” here is Mabadiliko. Now the question remains- what is the content of the Mabadiliko needed? Indeed, As it been explained that voting out CCM will send a message that if one doesn’t perform well, they will be voted out in the next election. Nonetheless, I think those who will be voting are now not voting retrospectively, but prospectively. Because as the opposition has never been in power in Tanzania , we really don’t know of their performance.

On the other side, are we sure, the opposition voters will be voting out “CCM”? OR will they be voting out the “green/yellow” colour? It seems like the two main opposing parties in this elections are the same in so many ways even if voters are so divided. To give one example- both did not show up in the presidential debate- sending the message that they do not care about accountability! For me that was a sign of one type in different colours.

In hindisight “mabadiliko” has already happened in both CCM and CHADEMA- have done/and are doing mabadiliko already. CCM has been on the mabidiliko process since 2012 as it has been argued elsewhere through its politics of image strategy. The choice of Magufuli as the presidential candidate is partly a reflection of that strategy. CHADEMA underwent an abrupt mabadiliko in August 2015 (although I think such mabadiliko started earlier since 2013 with the party internal conflicts). In this campaign, CHADEMA has different faces from the “traditional” opposition figures. Apart from the party chairman, the rest of the campaign front speakers are the common faces that we are used to see in CCM for over years. So isn’t’ that already “mabadiliko”?… which as it is now stands.. is the maintenance of the status quo .

Well, I think at the end of the day, most voters in Tanzania will vote prospectively…as we are explicitly denying ourselves the opportunity to have REAL alternatives that will allow us to vote retrospectively in the future elections…with such trends of changing colours we might end up voting prospectively for the next 10 years if not many years to come…God forbid!

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