The purpose of the thesis is to analyse the role and function of political parties in a democratisation process, both at a theoretical level and in the case of Tanzania. The main questions of the study are:
What kind of party system is taking shape in Tanzania?
What role do the political parties in Tanzania play in the democratisation process?
How can one explain the characteristics of the Tanzanian party system?
The theoretical approach is outlined in Chapter 2. The main argument is that in order to study political parties in processes of democratisation it is useful to employ a narrow definition of democracy, focusing on the institutional arrangements that constitute a democratic state. By defining democracy as an institutional arrangement to elect leaders, it is possible to highlight the role of political parties and political society in the democratisation process. Such an approach is also useful in that it accords with the empirical realities of African democracies today, where in many countries political elites are the driving force in the reform process. Finally, the chapter discusses the forces that determine the set-up of party systems in countries going through democratic transitions.
Chapter 3 outlines the history of the Tanzanian one-party state: its rise in the 1960s, its theoretical justification, and its downfall in the early 1990s. The chapter also discusses former President Julius Nyerere s approach to democracy and the attempts to incorporate those ideas into the state and the party, and the critique of the one-party state that eventually led to its downfall. Finally, the chapter outlines the transition to a multiparty system.
Chapter 4 looks at the party system in present-day Tanzania. It gives a presentation of the new political landscape and each of the main political parties. Then follows a section on the internal conflicts in the parties, which have become a dominating feature of Tanzanian party politics. The main part of the chapter looks into the ideological and policy orientations of the parties and the ability of the parties to reach the voters.
The final chapter analyses the role of political parties in the democratisation process in Tanzania. It concludes that Tanzania has still a long way to go before a functional party system is established in the country, for three main reasons. First, the ideologies and policies of the parties are in general both unclear and similar, and the parties therefore do not have clear-cut alternatives to present to the voters, and the programmes are of lesser importance than the personalities who represent the parties and contest elections. Second, only the incumbent party is able to reach down to the voters on a regular basis. The other parties do not have the necessary organisation or resources, and contact therefore becomes sporadic and ad-hoc. Finally, very serious conflicts within the parties threaten both the stability and credibility of the parties and the party system.
The thesis concludes that these problems can be explained both in terms of the formal and informal institutional setting of the democratic transition, and in terms of socio-economic structures. Tanzania is yet another example that shows that quick fixes of instituting formal democratic structures upon an informal, undemocratic culture of neopatrimonialism will not be sustainable, and that democratic consolidation in the long run depends upon a combination of economic and institutional development.