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Elections and Politics in Single-party Systems: the Case of Kenya and Tanzania

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2009


This paper sets out to consider two related questions: the significance of elections in single-party systems in underdeveloped countries, and the kind of study which political scientists have made of such elections.1

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1972

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1 Material for this article was collected in 1970 after the two elections had been held. We have depended on newspaper reports and official documents, to the extent the latter have been available. Due to the lack of certain information on Kenya (mainly arising out of its semi-official character as a primary election) we asked a number of students to prepare retrospective reports on their home constituencies. For these we owe thanks to Messrs P. W. Achola, S. Z. L. Ambuka, A. Bekah, B. M. Githegi, G. H. Josiah, F. C. W. Karuba, G. S. Kuria, J. K. Karingu, K. P. A. Lang'at, A. M. Musumba, H. N. Narobi, J. D. N. Olewe, J. W. T. Otieno, E. K. Ruchiami, and M. M. Shambi. We are also grateful to Mr Robert Feruzy for assistance in coding information about the candidates in Tanzania. One of the problems created by the semi-official status of the Kenyan primaries is that no comprehensive data on the candidates was published and in this and some other respects our data on the two elections are far from being as comparable as we would like. However, it seemed unlikely that more comparable material would come to hand in the foreseeable future. Finally, we wish to thank Dr J. J. Okumu, Professor Kenneth Prewitt, Professor Douglas Ashcroft, Professor Henry Bienen and Professor W. H. Morris-Jones for helpful criticisms and advice.

2 Kogeka, S. V. and Park, R. L., Reports on the Indian General Elections 1951–52 (Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1956).Google Scholar

3 Cf. Smith, T. E., Elections in Developing Countries (London: Macmillan, 1960)Google Scholar and Engholm, G. F., Elections in Uganda (Kampala: East African Literature Bureau, 1958).Google Scholar

4 Mair, Lucy, The Nyasaland Elections of 1961 (London: The Athlone Press, 1962), p. 81.Google Scholar

5 Cliffe, Lionel, ed., One Party Democracy (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967)Google Scholar, and Tordoff, William, ‘The General Election in Tanzania’, Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies, IV (1966).Google Scholar

6 This is of course a major oversimplification, and in particular ignores the strong tradition of general political sociological analysis using electoral data; such as (among recent examples) Lipset, S. M. and Rokkan, S., Party Systems and Voter Alignments (New York: Free Press, 1967)Google Scholar, and Butler, David and Stokes, Donald, Political Change in Britain (London: Macmillan, 1969).Google Scholar

7 For a review of the American literature in the context of work also done elsewhere, see the article on ‘Voting’, by Stokes, Donald E. in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968).Google Scholar

8 I.e. the series beginning with Mccallum, R. B. and Readman, A., The British General Election of 1945 (London: Oxford University Press, 1945) and continuing under the leadership of D. E. Butler in studies published by Macmillans.Google Scholar

9 Austin, Dennis,Politics in Ghana 1946–1960 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 316.Google Scholar

10 Mackenzie, W. J. M. and Robinson, K. E., Five Elections in Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), p. 2.Google ScholarKen, Post in The Nigerian Federal Election of 1959 (London: Oxford University Press, 1963)Google Scholar uses the same starting-point.

11 Some writers following the Nuffield tradition maintain that the value of an election study also lies in the speed with which it appears, as it otherwise loses its relevance to those concerned. Cf. Bennett, G. and Rosberg, C. G. Jr, The Kenyatta Election, Kenya 1960–1961 (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. viGoogle Scholar, and Mulford, David C., The Northern Rhodesia General Election 1962 (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. iv.Google Scholar This suggests some ambiguity about the approach, however; presumably if the value of an election study is that it illuminates the whole political system, the speed with which it appears should not be of special importance.

12 The information offered in this section naturally makes no pretence to be more than is absolutely necessary to make the account of the elections comprehensible to readers without any special interest in East Africa. For the history of Kenya nationalism see Rosberg, C. G. and Nottingham, J. C., The Myth of Mau Mau (New York: Praeger, 1966)Google Scholar; and for a recent study with a full bibliography on Mau Mau, see Buijtenhuijs, Robert, Le Mouvement ‘Mau Mau’ (Mouton: The Hague, 1971).Google Scholar

13 See, e.g. the foreword by Kaggia, B. M., Kubai, Fred, Murumbi, Joseph and Oneko, Achieng, to Barnett, D. and Njama, K., Mau Mau from Within (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966), pp. 911.Google Scholar

14 See Wasserman, G., ‘European Farmers and the Land issue in Kenya 19601963Google Scholar’, USSC Conference Paper (Dar es Salaam 1970); and Leys, C., ‘Politics in Kenya: the Development of Peasant Society’, British Journal of Political Science, III (1971), 313–43.Google Scholar

15 Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965: African Socialism and Its Application to Planning in Kenya (Nairobi: Government Printer, 1965)Google Scholar; see also Mohiddin, Ahmed, ‘Sessional Paper No. 10 RevisitedEast Africa Journal, VI (1969)Google Scholar, and Mboya, Tom, ‘Sessional Paper No. 10–It is African and it is Socialism’, East Africa Journal, VI (1969).Google Scholar

16 For the events referred to in this paragraph the most convenient source is Gertzel, C. J., The Politics of Independent Kenya (London: Heinemann, 1970), especially Chaps. 2–5.Google Scholar

17 Gertzel, , The Politics of Independent Kenya, pp. 162–6.Google Scholar

18 The most dramatic of these conflicts was at Mombasa, where it led to violence and was ultimately resolved (for a time) by the President's decision to order new KANU sub-branch elections at the end of August 1969, in which Mr Ngala’s opponents were overwhelmingly defeated.

19 See Okumu, J. J., ‘The By-Election in Gem’, East Africa Journal, VI (1969), 917.Google Scholar

20 This led to the ‘Ol Kalou Declaration’ in favour of primaries, issued by nineteen MPs on 20 April 1969.

21 Cf. Ghai, Y. P. and Mcauslan, J. P. W. B., Public Law and Political Change in Kenya (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 522–3.Google Scholar

22 Daily Nation, 22 November 1969.

23 Daily Nation, 18 November 1969, and East African Standard, 19 November 1969.

24 Daily Nation, 22 November 1969.

25 Daily Nation, 18 December 1969.

26 Daily Nation, 6 November 1969.

27 East African Standard, 9 December 1969.

28 Cf. Gertzel, , The Politics of Independent Kenya, pp. 93–4.Google Scholar

29 The institution is weak even though the power and influence of an individual may be greatly enlarged by being elected to Parliament.

30 Ghai, and Mcauslan, , Public Law and Political Change, p. 524.Google Scholar

31 The constituencies in question were Ndihwa in Nyanza Province, Makuyu in Central Province and Emuhaya in Western Province. In the latter two the successful petitioners won the subsequent by-elections.

32 E.g. the burning of Mr Githegi's car by Mr Gatuguta's supporters in Kikuyu constituency.

33 In the first of the petitions to be heard the Chief Justice ruled that although the court certified, as a result of the hearing, that the election results were null and void, it had no power to grant the application of the petitioner for costs. This seems bound to have deterred even those candidates who were likely to be able to collect evidence and witnesses to support what they considered a strong case. See Daily Nation, 18 March 1970.

34 An attempt by the Ministry of Information to obtain personal data on the new MPs proved unsuccessful.

35 The constituency reports referred to are sixteen reports written a year later by students resident in fifteen different constituencies using a standard set of questions to structure interviews with a varied range of participants.

36 This does not mean that the Luo MPs who were elected and subsequently included in the government enjoyed the same degree of popular backing in Luo-land as Mboya and Odinga had formerly.

37 The commercial banks could be regarded as exceptions. It was expected that they would become more interested in lending to Africans.

38 See East African Standard, 27 November 1970, and subsequent issues for two weeks. The increases were arranged largely by increasing tax-free allowances.

39 It was also very high (78.2 per cent) in Nyandarua District, which is difficult to compare with the others in Central Province as its inhabitants are mainly settlers under the Million Acre Scheme.

40 The first was the Bahaya Union in Bukoba, formed in 1924, followed by the Kilimanjaro Coffee Planters Association in 1925.

41 Cf. Hyden, G., Political Development in Rural Tanzania (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1969).Google Scholar

42 Cf. Cliffe, L., ‘Nationalism and the Enforcement of Agricultural Improvement in the Colonial Period in Tanganyika’, EAISR Conference Paper (mimeo), Kampala 1965.Google Scholar

43 Cf. Maguire, G. Andrew, Toward ‘Uhuru’ in Tanzania (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969).Google Scholar

44 See Bienen, Henry, Tanzania: Party Transformation and Economic Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, second edition, 1970), Chap. 5.Google Scholar

45 Ujamaa – The Basis of African Socialism, reprinted in J. K. Nyerere, Freedom and Unity (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 162–71.

46 Cliffe, Lionel, One Party Democracy (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967), p. 33Google Scholar; the 1970 figure is known (from private sources) to be approximately the same as in 1965.

47 Saul, John, ‘Background to the Tanzanian Election 1970’, Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies, X (1972), forthcoming.Google Scholar

48 The Standard (Dar es Salaam), 16 March 1970.

49 The Standard, 29 October 1970.

50 Sources: Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, p. 262Google Scholar, and the ‘Election Supplement 1970’, The Standard, 28 October 1970.

51 Sources: Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, p. 266Google Scholar, and ‘Election Supplement 1970’.

52 Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, p. 263.Google Scholar

53 Sources: Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, p. 266Google Scholar, and ‘Election Supplement 1970’.

54 Ex – MPs were not included in this category in the 1965 material.

55 Saul, ‘Background to the Tanzanian Election 1970’.

56 Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, p. 279.Google Scholar

57 Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, pp. 200, 285–6 and 410–30Google Scholar; in Tanzania, as in many other countries with significant numbers of illiterate people, each candidate is officially allocated a political symbol for purposes of identification at the polls.

58 A debate about the role of symbols in the elections in Tanzania took place in the columns of The Standard during early 1971; ‘peasant voters’ voted symbols rather than candidates into parliament, according to the letters published. These letters support the findings of the 1965 election study.

59 Cliffe, , One Party Democracy, pp. 292–7.Google Scholar

60 Not a ‘circulation of elites’ in Pareto's sense. The individuals who replaced the outgoing MPs did not represent new strata in society, they were just new individuals from the same strata. Cf.Pareto, V., in Finer, S. E., ed., Sociological Writings (London: Pall Mall, 1966), pp. 5171, 155 – 64, etc.Google Scholar

61 Prewitt (Prewitt, K., The Recruitment of Political Leaders (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1970), p. 32),Google Scholar has argued that a somewhat similar psychological mechanism operates to produce votes for elite candidates in American society, the voter preferring to elect someone who represents achieved success in order to rationalize the inherent recognition of inequality involved in authorizing someone else to govern him. In Africa, however, there does not seem any need to postulate such a mechanism since the ideal of equality is not widely shared. For some discussion of the bases of clientelism in Kenyan society see C. Leys, ‘Politics in Kenya; The Development of Peasant Society’.

62 See Bienen, H., Tanzania, p. 394,Google Scholar for a similar interpretation of assistant ministers’ difficulties in Tanzania in 1965.

63 See Prewitt, K. and Nie, N., ‘Election Studies of the Survey Research Center’, British Journal of Political Science, I (1971), 479502CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for both an appreciation of this trend, and some powerful arguments for doubting whether the theory of American politics that is emerging from it can claim to be at all adequate.

64 Campbell, A. et al. , Elections and the Political Order (New York: Wiley, 1966).Google Scholar

65 See also Chambers, W. N. and Burnham, W. D., eds., The American Party Systems; Stages of Political Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967)Google Scholar; and Prewitt, K., ‘Political Ambitions, Volunteerism, and Electoral Accountability’, American Political Science Review, LXIV (1970), pp.517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

66 See Stokes, Donald E. and Miller, Warren E., ‘Party Government and the Saliency of Congress’, in Campbell, A. et al. , Elections and the Political Order, pp. 194211.Google Scholar

67 Milnor, A. J., Elections and Political Stability (Boston: Little Brown, 1969).Google Scholar Milnor’s approach is clearly stated on pp. 1–12 of the Introduction.

68 The whole ‘exchange’ model of politics, as used by Milnor and also by Ilchman, Warren and Uphoff, Norman, The Political Economy of Change (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969)Google Scholar, comes at times dangerously close to H. Stretton's parody of the abstracted empiricist method in which he pictures a study of ‘civility’ being built up from the proposition that cities are ‘essentially’ systems of interaction between peoples, the basic unit of human interaction being the ‘hubit’; cf. Stretton, H., The Political Sciences (London: Routledge, 1969), pp. 428–30.Google Scholar

69 Milnor's discussion of Soviet elections (pp. 112–21) illustrates this point, being a dispassionate account of how the extensive involvement of the public in the electoral process ‘identifies (people) with the state’ (p. 117). In the case of Tanzania, the latent assumption that the function of legitimizing the regime is an end in itself is fortified by the assertion that the maintenance of national unity is ‘the most difficult task’ confronting any modernizing nation (p. 163). This value judgement might have been shared by the TANU leaders in 1965, but by the end of 1966 they had decided that the achievement of a socialist society, not unity, was actually the most difficult task they confronted.

70 Saul, ‘Background to the Tanzanian Election 1970’.

71 Saul, ‘Background to the Tanzanian Election 1970’.

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