Monthly Archives: July 2015

New publications

Ausra Park, ‘Post-Communist Leadership: A Case Study of Lithuania’s “White House” (1993–2014)’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization , Volume 23, Number 2, Spring 2015 , pp. 151-179.

Edward Aspinall, Marcus Mietzner, Dirk Tomsa (eds.), The Yudhoyono Presidency: Indonesia’s Decade of Stability and Stagnation, Singapore: ISEAS 2015.

Fortunato Musella, ‘Presidents in business. Career and destiny of democratic leaders’, European Political Science Review / Volume 7 / Issue 02 / May 2015, pp 293-313.

Vlad Perju, ‘The Romanian double executive and the 2012 constitutional crisis’, International Journal of Constitutional Law, (2015), 13 (1): 246-278.

Valentin Alekseevich Ovchinnikov, ‘Semi-Presidential Republic In The Russian Federation’, The Lawyer Quarterly, 2015, available at:

Claudio Fuentes, ‘Shifting the Status Quo: Constitutional Reforms in Chile’, Latin American Politics and Society, vol. 57, no. 1, 2015, pp. 99-122, available at:

Adam Packer, The Difference Constitutions Make: A Global Inquiry Into The Impacts Of Institutional Design’, PhD, Australian National University, 2015, available at:

Meral Ugur Cinar, ‘Letter from Ankara’, on presidentialism in Turkey, in The Political Quarterly, early view.

Lucia Bonfreschi, ‘Interpreting foreign institutions. How the Italian academic culture dealt with the French Fifth Republic, 1958–1998’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Volume 20, Issue 3, 2015, pp. 298-314.

William G. Howell, ‘Presidential Power’, and Sona N. Golder, ‘Government Formation and Cabinets’, both in Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource, details at:

Special issue of Politics and the Life Sciences on The Presidency and Disability, vol. 33, no. 2, 2014.

Douglas L. Kriner and Andrew Reeves, The Particularistic President: Executive Branch Politics and Political Inequality, CUP, 2015.

Pavel Molek, ‘Czech Presidential Elections 2013 Feast of Democracy or a Czech Farce in Four Acts?’, ICL Journal, Vol 9, no. 1/2015, Notes & Essays, available at:

Moldova – Electoral Dysfunction Approaching its End?

Moldovans are once again considering changes to the rules governing election of their president. The current election system has been the cause of recurrent crises, and if not changed promises to be so once again in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Until recently, presidents have played a central role in Moldovan political life, and competition among top leaders to achieve the post has been intense. During the first decade of the postcommunist period Presidents Mircea Snegur (1990-1997) and the Petru Lucinschi (1997-2001) made use of the post as a counterbalance, sometimes more and sometimes less effectively, to the fragmented legislature. In the following decade Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) leader, Vladimir Voronin (2001-2009) was able to effectively exercise both executive and legislative authority from the Office of the Presidency.
It is only since the most recent presidential election, held in March 2012, that the role of the Pesident has declined in significance. President Nicolae Timofti, the current incumbent, was selected for the position in order to end a deadlock between the dominant political party leaders, none of whom was willing to see one of the others assume the office. Previous to becoming President Timofti served as Chairman of the Supreme Council of Magistrates and was a political independent. Without control over major party resources, he was counted on not to emerge as a major competitor for power. He was apparently expected to remain neutral in the internecine disputes among ruling coalition members and to support the broad direction of established foreign policy orientation. During his tenure in office President Timofti has occasionally engaged in controversial partisan activity, but has in general lived up to these expectations.

Since Independence, Moldova has employed two presidential electoral systems. Like many post-Soviet republics it implemented direct election of the president at the time of the USSR’s break-up. Initially named President by the country’s last Supreme Soviet, Mircea Snegur implemented direct election to the office and was made President by popular vote in December 1991. Direct election of the president was retained in Moldova’s first constitution in 1994 and was employed for a second time in 1996 and resulted in the election of Petru Lucinschi. The following four years, however, were characterized by a nearly constant struggle between the legislative and executive branches. By the end of his term Lucinschi was actively lobbying for transition to a presidential system of government. In order to block Lucinschi’s election to a second term and avoid that outcome legislative leaders banded together in December 2000 to modify the constitutional regarding presidential election. According to the new formula the president was to be elected by parliament. Election requires the support of 3/5s, or 61 of Moldova’s 101 MPs. If no one wins, a second round it held between the top two candidates. If no one achieves success in the second round a new contest must be organized. If that ballot fails to produce a winner, new parliamentary elections must be called.

The new system, which remains in effect at present, immediately proved itself unsound under Moldovan political condition. On its first use in 2000 repeat elections failed to produce a winning candidate, leading to dissolution and early legislative elections in 2001. Those elections brought a Communist majority to power in Parliament. The following two presidential contests proceeded smoothly as a consequence of the PCRM’s legislative dominance, giving Vladimir Voronin first round wins on each occasion.

By the time of April 2009 legislative elections the Communist dominance had waned significantly. As a consequence the weaknesses of the 2000 presidential electoral rules resurfaced, producing a cycle of ongoing crisis. This began with the failure to elect a president after repeat attempts in May and June 2009. The repeat parliamentary elections held in July as called for by the constitution increased support for a new anti-communist coalition, the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), but left the Communists with sufficient seatsin parliament to block election of a President. According to the Constitution repeat elections could not be held again within a year, so AEI leaders employed the device of appointing one of their number, Liberal Party leader Mihia Ghimpu, Acting President until new parliamentary elections could be held. They then called a referendum designed to return the country to direct presidential elections. This measure, held in September 2010 gained nearly 90% support from those who participated, but did not achieve the 33% turnout required to alter the Constitution. On the failure of the referendum Moldova’s Constitutional Court called for Parliament to be dissolved. New legislative elections were held in November 2010, again without producing a majority sufficient to either elect a President or alter the Constitution from within the legislature. Once again, resort was made to the expedient of naming an acting-president, in this case Democratic Party (PD) leader Marian Lupu, while efforts were made to resolve the impasse before another round of early legislative elections would be required. Finally, after an abortive effort in Parliament to elect Lupu President on December 16, 2011, and under the pressure of a looming third set of early parliamentary elections, AEI party leaders with the support of defectors from the communists managed to elect President Timofti with 62 votes in March 2012.

Regularly scheduled parliamentary elections in November of last year left parliament once again in a state of disarray, with the former governing AEI coalition parties (Liberal Democrats (PLDM), Liberal Party and the Democratic Party) deeply divided and without sufficient votes to elect a President. When coalition negotiations between the former partners broke down a short-lived minority government which depended on parliamentary support from Voronin’s Communists was formed by the PLDM and the Democratic Party. That government, headed by Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, collapsed this June amidst charges of massive corruption by political leaders and the failure of the Moldovan Banking System.

On July 23nd the previous pro-European AEI parties signed an agreement to resume their coalition based on a common program and a new division of ministerial and government posts. At the same time they agreed to reform the presidential electoral system in order to avoid the recurrent crises that have plagued the country’s politics as presidential elections approach in 2016. According to the new system, which will be submitted as a referendum, the President will continue to be elected by the Parliament, but in a new three round procedure. In the first round 61 votes would be required as at present. If no candidate succeeds a second vote will be held in which 57 votes will be required. If that vote fails, a simple majority of 51 will be needed to elect the President. Since the pro-European parties currently control 55 seats, they should in principle be able to successfully elect a common candidate.

The largest parliamentary party, Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), immediately rejected the measure, calling for direct popular election to the post. This position was formerly held by the Reform Liberal Party (splinter faction of the PL) and Liberal Democratic Party leaders, who attempted last year o introduce a referendum for direct presidential election that would have been held in tandem with parliamentary elections, They were denied the right to do so by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that insufficient time was provided between introduction of the measure and the vote.

Will the measure pass? While indications are that the majority of the population would prefer direct presidential election, it is clear that the dominant party leaders are unwilling to allow control of the presidency to slip from their hands at this point. Neither, though, do they wish to continue on in the current state of perpetual crisis. The majority legislative vote proposal at least holds out for them the possibility for resolving the problem. It will in all likelihood be supported by Moldovan voters, if they are given no other choice.

William E. Crowther

Burundi – President Nkurunziza reelected, what now?

On July 21, 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza was reelected for a highly controversial third term.  According to official results, he won 69.41 percent of the votes in a poll boycotted by some opposition candidates. The runner-up was Agathon Rwasa, leader of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), who garnered 18.99 percent. Despite the boycott by opposition candidates, their names remained on the ballot as ballot papers had already been printed before the boycott was announced. According to the election commission, the national average turn-out among the country’s 2.8 million voters was 73.44 percent, with a low of 29.75 percent in the capital Bujumbura (500,000 inhabitants) and much higher figures in the more populous rural areas (Burundi has a population of about 10 million people).

The vote took place following months of protests and violence triggered by Nkurunziza’s announcement on April 25th that he was standing for reelection [see previous blogpost on the third term controversy here]. Police used “excessive lethal force” and treated demonstrators and entire residential areas of Bujumbura as if they were part of an “insurrection,” according to a recent Amnesty International report, fueling further violence and pushing the country to the brink of conflict. Over 150,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries and more than 100 people have reportedly been killed.

Under pressure by the East African Community (EAC), the presidential election was postponed twice, from June 26th to July 15th and then to July 21st, to give negotiations a chance. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (who has ruled his country for three decades) tried but failed to broker an agreement between the government and opposition. His efforts focused on the creation of a “government of national unity” following the presidential poll. Museveni also urged the “political class” of Burundi to focus less on “controlling government” and more on “the private sector” [unclear how that would have helped resolve the immediate political deadlock]. The United States State Department urgently called on “all parties in Burundi to commit themselves to constructive dialogue to resolve peacefully the political impasse that threatens to unravel the peace and stability ushered in by the implementation of the Arusha Agreement over a decade ago.”

Dialogue failed to materialize before the polls and Burundi now has a president whose legitimacy is in question. The EAC Observer Mission to Burundi concludes in its preliminary statement of July 23rd that “The electoral process fell short of the principles and standards for holding free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible elections as stipulated in various international, continental as well as the EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation.” A conclusion echoed by the UN observers in their preliminary statement of July 27th. The EU and US agree that the election was not credible.

What is the way out of the impasse? While everyone, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling for a resumption of dialogue, the EAC suggestion of the creation of a government of national unity is the only concrete proposal on the table. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa supports forming such a unity government, if its primary function is to organize new elections within a year. The president’s camp is also open to discussing a unity government, but has rejected the idea of cutting short Nkurunziza’s third mandate as “impossible.”

Who will tire out first, the opposition or Nkurunziza and the ruling party? As the newly elected parliament sat for the first time on July 27th, parts of the opposition took up their seats while others declared they will not – which could be a sign of weakening opposition cohesion. On the other hand, the government of Burundi depends on donor funding for 52 percent of the national budget. The EU is looking into asset freezes and travel bans targeting Burundian government officials considered responsible for violence and for hampering political dialogue. The US will be reviewing its assistance – which includes 80 million USD a year for Burundi’s military and security forces – over the next couple of months.

Hopefully a protracted stand-off will not result in renewed large scale violence and the fanning of ethnic flames from the 12-year long civil war that ended in 2005. Some opposition leaders living in exile, such as Alexis Sinduhije, have threatened to take up arms, while the Burundian government has expressed concern at allegations that the government of Rwanda is supporting armed groups. The next potential trigger for violence is the official enddate of President Nkurunziza’s current mandate, August 26th. After that date, according to the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC), Nkurunziza will be “an ordinary citizen” and can no longer “pretend to be the president of the people who did not appoint him to represent them.”

Credible and productive dialogue to end the stalemate would require a “moral chief mediator” accepted by both parties, playing the role of “facilitator” as Nelson Mandela did during the Arusha peace process (Mason 2008, p. 21). The regional countries have yet to find a statesman of the same stature and with a similar personality to play that role.

Oleksii Sydorchuk – Constitutional reform in Ukraine

This is a guest post by Oleksii Sydorchuk, PhD student at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine


On July 16, the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) sent a draft of the constitutional amendments proposed by President Poroshenko to the constitutional court to review their conformity with the basic law. The document was the result of several months of activity by the Constitutional Commission that was created in March 2015 by Poroshenko. The draft developed by the Commission in late June was sent to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe which made a number of recommendations. Some of them were included in the latest version of the draft.

Unlike the previous constitutional reform of 2004, the proposed constitutional changes do not deal directly with the highest state institutions – president, parliament and cabinet. Instead, they are focused on so-called decentralization, i.e. the transfer of competences and resources from central-level executive bodies to local self-government bodies. The issue of decentralization was placed on political agenda immediately after the new authorities came to power in February 2014 following the Euromaidan events. Since then it has been addressed in several pieces of legislation. The proposed constitutional changes are likely to indirectly influence the president’s powers, as well as relations between the president and cabinet.

On the surface, both the president and cabinet are to be stripped of their present competences in controlling local governments. The presidential draft envisages the liquidation of local state administrations, the heads of which are currently appointed and dismissed by the president on cabinet’s nomination. Currently, these figures dominate the decision-making processes at the regional and local levels. In their place, prefects (borrowed from French legal system) will be created. They will be appointed and dismissed in the same way, but they will have limited powers. Prefects will no longer coordinate and direct actions the local self-government bodies, but will control their activity, having the right to suspend acts of local agencies if the latter violate existing laws. According to the draft, prefects will be responsible to the president, but also accountable to the cabinet.

The president, while losing important points of influence over local governments, will obtain several new ones. Most notably, the president will get right to dissolve local councils if the latter adopt unconstitutional decisions that threaten state sovereignty, national security or territorial integrity. This provision is clearly aimed at preventing separatist-minded activities and declarations like the ones made by local councils in Eastern and Southern Ukraine in early 2014 during Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the upheavals in the Donbas region. Critics of such a provision, however, point to the vagueness of what is meant by such a ‘threat’, warning that it could give the president the opportunity to interfere into local self-government. In order to alleviate this concern, the president will have to refer the matter to the constitutional court for approval. Yet, the ability of the court to serve as independent arbiter is questionable, given its history of highly controversial and politically motivated decisions.

What has largely escaped the attention of Ukrainian observers are the possible implications of the proposed constitutional changes for relations between the president and the cabinet with regard to the regional level. Prefects, according to the draft, will coordinate the activities of regional executive bodies, which are formally subordinated to the cabinet, not the president. However, with the ability to appoint and dismiss prefects, the president will most likely not only preserve some of his influence over local governments, but also gain new ways of influencing the cabinet’s responsibilities for regional bodies through prefects. The implementation of such a provision could lead to an increase in the president’s involvement in the cabinet’s affairs at the regional level and to conflict between the two.

The preservation of double responsibility of prefects and the introduction of new overlapping spheres of competences stem directly from the existing semi-presidential form of government. In February 2014, during the last days of Euromaidan, Verkovna Rada voted to re-introduce the premier-presidential constitutional model which had been in operation from 2006 to 2010. Two months later, Ukrainian legal experts proposed further changes to the form of government and even elaborated their version of constitutional amendments which would have decreased the president’s executive powers and eliminated his influence over regional executive bodies. This proposal was, however, ignored by both president and parliament, and the idea of changing the form of government was put aside.

There are several reasons why the current constitutional process does not attempt to review the existing semi-presidential framework. They relate mostly to president who is usually the agenda-setter in the process of constitutional reform in Ukraine. On the eve of May 2014 presidential elections, Poroshenko expressed his comfort with the institution’s constitutional powers and vowed not to change them. In July 2014 he, however, did try to initiate changes to the constitution which would have given him slightly more powers, but he quickly abandoned this idea following a hostile reaction from the majority of parliamentary factions. Since then, even though his parliamentary support base has increased after the October 2014 parliamentary elections, the deputies’ reluctance to surrender their constitutional powers to president has forced Poroshenko to forego any further attempts at increasing his powers.

Moreover, during his tenure, President Poroshenko has demonstrated a much more consensual approach to handling relations with the cabinet than his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. In this, he has been partly aided by Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, who has also opted for cooperation instead of confrontation in most cases. Paradoxically, the relatively peaceful coexistence of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk could also be explained by the pressure of important external factors, such as need to resist the encroachment of pro-Russian separatists in Donbas and to prevent the economic collapse of the country. Such profound threats have served as a mobilizing factor which has preserved a high level of cooperation among key political actors. However, if they lose their relevance, cracks inside ruling coalition could start to unravel.

The proposed constitutional amendments, if they are embraced by both the constitutional court and a two-thirds majority of parliament, could add another impetus to potential conflicts inside the executive branch. Therefore, without any revision of the existing premier-presidential model with its division of executive powers between the president and cabinet, even efforts aimed at decentralization could lead to undesirable consequences in terms of the relations between the two ‘heads’ of executive. If Poroshenko’s constitutional draft is supported by deputies, he could gain some competences from cabinet. In the long term the Ukrainian political system will remain vulnerable to intra-executive conflicts.

Oleksii Sydorchuk is a PhD student in political science at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine. His spheres of interest cover semi-presidential regimes, comparative constitutional engineering, and post-communist politics. He also works as political analyst at the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Ukrainian non-governmental think tank.

Ryan E. Carlin and Shane P. Singh – Executive Power and Economic Accountability

This is a guest post by Ryan E. Carlin and Shane P. Singh from Georgia State University and the University of Georgia respectively

Accountability’s centrality to democratic theory makes it “one of the holy grails of empirical political science research” (Samuels and Hellwig 2010, 393). It refers to the public’s ability to “discern whether governments are acting in their interest and sanction them appropriately” (Manin, Przeworski, and Stokes 1999, 40) through elections, civil society, the media, protests, and public opinion. Are some executives held more accountable than others by design? Can they shape their own accountability by the decisions they make?

In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Politics, we posit that both presidents’ legislative powers and how frequently they resort to legislation by decree shape the extent to which the public holds them accountable for economic outcomes. Two forms of responsibility attributions connect presidential powers to accountability. “Role responsibility” concerns the obligations citizens expects presidents to fulfill and the consequences for failing to do so. Presidents endowed with vast lawmaking powers accrue great role responsibility for outcomes on their watch. “Causal responsibility” is doled out when presidents’ intentional actions are seen as proximate causes of economic outcomes. In proportion to the decree powers presidents use to legislate unilaterally, they will incur causal responsibility for the outcomes.

To test our expectations, we gathered data from the Latinobarometer on presidential approval, sociotropic economic retrospections, and several common controls from 94,861 respondents in 120 surveys from 18 Latin American presidential systems over the years 2002-2009. We tested whether the degree to which socioeconomic retrospections were related to presidential approval was a function of two measures of presidential power: an index of the legislative powers afforded to the president by the constitution and the total number of decrees and decree laws the president issued in the previous year, as measured with the Global Legal Information Database.

As predicted, economic evaluations influence the approval of powerful presidents more than their weaker counterparts. That is, economic accountability is calibrated to account for presidents’ legislative powers and prerogatives—their role responsibility for outcomes. Accountability also keeps pace with decree usage, a finding consistent with a mechanism of causal responsibility attribution. We can see this graphically through the marginal effects of economic evaluations on the probability of approving of the president according to legislative powers and the use of decrees as captured in Figure 1.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 15.35.23

To put some flesh on these results, imagine an individual whose president has Legislative Powers that register in the 10th percentile of our sample—Honduras since 1982. Results illustrated in the left-hand panel of the figure suggest that a unit increase in retrospective economic evaluations corresponds with, on average, roughly a 12.5 percentage-point increase in the likelihood that she will approve of the president. If this same individual were transplanted to a country where the president’s Legislative Powers ranked in the 90th percentile—Brazil since 2001—a unit increase in economic retrospections should boost the likelihood that she will approve of the president by around 16.4 percentage points.

Turning to the link with decrees, illustrated in the right-hand panel of the figure, for a citizen whose president falls in the 10th percentile for decree issuance, a unit increase in economic evaluations corresponds with, on average, about a 13.5 percentage-point increase in the likelihood that she will approve of the president. If that citizen’s president falls in the 90th percentile for issuing decrees, the same increase precipitates around a 15.9 percentage-point rise in the chances of approving of the president.

So presidents who enjoy strong legislative power and who use it extensively invite greater economic accountability. Not only do these measures of role responsibility and causal responsibility influence economic accountability independently but, as Figure 2 shows, their effects are even greater when analyzed in interaction.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 15.36.07

The public, thus, holds presidents to account for economic outcomes to a greater degree where their governing role responsibilities are vast and their causal responsibility is made more obvious by frequent use of such power. In other words, accountability for economic outcomes is strongest where presidents are strong legislators both de jure and de facto.

In presidential systems, executive power can be a blessing or a curse. When the public perceives a humming economy, strong presidents who use their legislative powers habitually can expect their popularity to grow multiplicatively. But when they feel the economy slumping, vast presidential powers compound the problem, sending support in a downward spiral. This may seem unfair, given the difficulty even strong presidents face in advancing their agendas (Saiegh 2011) and delivering outcomes citizens prefer (Mainwaring and Shugart 1997)—and the fact that congress may ask the president to act unilaterally in order to get things done (Carey and Shugart 1998). Nevertheless, we conclude that the more lawmaking power constitutions grant presidents, and the more they use these powers, the more responsibility they assume for economic policy outcomes in the public’s eye.

Our results weigh in on second-generation debates about presidentialism and democracy. In a thoughtful essay on why the “difficult combination” of presidentialism and multipartyism (Mainwaring 1993) has outstripped scholars’ predictions for durability and governability, Chaisty, Cheeseman, and Power (2014) credit presidents’ mastery of various power tools to build and manage multiparty coalitions. Yet the authors are quick to warn:

“The very same presidential tools that enhance governability may also undermine accountability – a tradeoff that has been largely overlooked even as analysts celebrate the survival of multiparty presidential democracy.” (86).

Our findings, however, suggest no tradeoff between the powers that facilitate governability and the vertical accountability mechanism of public opinion between elections. In fact, citizens appear able to calibrate responsibility attributions according to presidents’ possession and use (or even abuse) of lawmaking power. Thus, our preliminary diagnosis is that presidential powers pose no barrier to accountability at the level of mass politics.

But viewing these findings in light of our related research, blogged at Presidential Power earlier this year, renders a less sanguine conclusion. Democratic attitudes, the basis of regime legitimacy, are most positive under a middling—neither too high nor too low—degree of presidential powers (Singh and Carlin 2015). In other words, crafting an institutional framework to optimize both of these core democratic ideals under presidentialism may, therefore, prove rather challenging.


Carey, John M., and Shugart, Matthew Soberg, eds. 1998. Executive Decree Authority. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Chaisty, Paul, Cheeseman, Nic, and Power, Timothy. 2014. Rethinking the ‘Presidentialism Debate’: Conceptualizing Coalitional Politics in Cross-Regional Perspective. Democratization 21 (1):72-94.

Mainwaring, Scott. 1993. Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination. Comparative Political Studies 26 (2):198-228.

Mainwaring, Scott, and Shugart, Matthew Soberg, eds. 1997. Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Manin, Bernard, Przeworski, Adam, and Stokes, Susan Carol. 1999. Elections and Representation. In Democracy, Accountability, and Representation, eds. Przeworski, Adam, Stokes, Susan Carol and Manin, Bernard. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 29-54.

Saiegh, Sebastian M. 2011. Ruling by Statute: How Uncertainty and Vote-Buying Shape Lawmaking. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Samuels, David, and Hellwig, Timothy. 2010. Electoral Accountability and the Clarity of Responsibility: A Conceptual and Empirical Reassessment. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties 20 (4):393-414.

Singh, Shane P., and Carlin, Ryan E. 2015. Happy Medium, Happy Citizens: Presidential Power and Democratic Regime Support. Political Research Quarterly 68 (1):3-17.

Ryan Carlinpolitical scienceRyan E. Carlin is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy at Georgia State University. He received his Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests are comparative political behavior and public opinion, with a regional emphasis on Latin America. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, USAID, the Mellon and Ford Foundations, and the Latin American Studies Association. He is co-editor of The Latin American Voter (University of Michigan Press, 2015) and his work has appeared in numerous academic journals and volumes. His website is found at

SinghShane P. Singh is an Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. He received his Ph.D. in 2009 from Michigan State University. His research focuses on the institutional and contextual foundations of political behavior and attitudes. His work has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and his research has appeared in many academic journals and edited volumes. His website is found at

Latin America: Presidents and the Pope

Last week, the pope finished an eight-day tour of Latin America, where he visited, and held mass, in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. For Latin America, a region with forty per cent of the world’s Catholics, this was a significant event, as Pope Francis is from Argentina, and the first pope from the region. For the presidents of these countries, Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Horacio Cartes (Paraguay), I suspect that this was a somewhat nerve-wracking affair. Pope Francis is a high-profile figure that could both bolster their presidencies and improve the public mood, but also one who, with a critical word or phrase, could potentially undermine their legitimacy in front of virulent opposition groups.

As it turned out, the pope’s visit brought a little of everything, and although Pope Francis did largely steer clear of politics, when he did stray into the political world, it was with a somewhat mixed message.

In Ecuador, the days preceding the pope’s visit were rocked with large protests against the Correa administration, and once in Quito, the pope referred to ‘this Ecuadorean people that has gotten to its feet with dignity.’ Both the camp of president Correa and the opposition jumped on this statement as evidence of support. While in Ecuador, although the pope did call for the protection of the Amazon rain forest, parts of which have witnessed extensive mining under Rafael Correa, the visit of the pontiff largely appeared to be a boon to the president.

The pope’s visit to Bolivia was more political. He praised the reforms of the Morales administration, and apologized for the role of the Catholic Church in oppressing native peoples during the period of colonialism, an incredibly important statement in a country with large Quechuan and Aymaran populations. In a somewhat unusual move, Evo Morales, while wearing a badge of Che Guevara, presented the pope with a crucifix in the shape of a hammer and sickle, a replica of one belonging to Luís Espinal Camps, a left-leaning Spanish priest and liberation theologian, who was murdered in 1980 by the right-leaning anti-communist government of the time.

In Paraguay, all was not so rosy for Horacio Cartes. In front of President Cartes, a conservative businessman who had previously been in prison on charges of fraud, the pope railed against corruption, referring to it as ‘the gangrene of the people.’ He also stated that Paraguay ‘must banish the temptation to be satisfied with a purely formal democracy,’ a statement laden with meaning, given the forced removal of former left-leaning (and former bishop) Fernando Lugo in 2012 via impeachment proceedings. However, despite fervent hopes among activist groups, Pope Francis made no reference to social issues, in a highly conservative country, recently divided by the refusal to allow a ten year old that was raped to have an abortion.

This visit was illustrative. More broadly, it demonstrated the tensions between presidential diplomacy and the potential benefits, but also the potential damage, that can come with high profile visits such as this. It also reinforces the strong link between religion and politics, and notably Catholicism and politics, across Latin America. One last note – during his visit, the pope also called for South American unity, placing him in the company of both Simón Bolívar and Hugo Chávez. Make what you will of that.

Austria – President intervenes in coalition conflict over refugee crisis

The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, particularly the failure of European governments to agree on national quotas (or some countries’ refusal to accept any) has dominated headlines and political agenda across Europe. Austria has been no exception, yet here the handling of refugees has led to (yet another) conflict in the governing coalition partners, escalating to the point that some commentators speculated whether early elections would be called. However, while the possibility of the latter had already been denied by chancellor Werner Fayman the conflict took on a new dimension when president Fischer became exceptionally vocal in the debate.

Austrian president Heinz Fischer discussing the problems in the coalition government on TV last week

Austrian president Heinz Fischer discussing the problems in the coalition government on TV last week

Since early last month the two parties in Austria’s grand coalition, the Social Democrats of Chancellor Werner Fayman and the People’s Party, have quarrelled over how to deal with the surge in asylum seekers. In particular, controversy centred around the country’s only refugee ‘reception centre’ which has exceeded its capacity, leading interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (People’s Party) to build tents as temporary accommodation and to negotiate a deal with neighbouring Slovakia to take up to 500 refugees. To alleviate the crisis, chancellor Fayman proposed to distribute refugees across Austria and have districts deal with the formalities. This step has however been fiercely opposed by the People’s Party and their state governors (currently heading 6 of the country’s 9 federal states) have rejected the idea of a quota for further distribution of refugees or opening more reception centres. The lines of conflict thus run both between the parties in government and within the People’s Party, more precisely between federal and state representatives. In fact, a number of leading Social Democrats even suggested that the People’s Party-led ministry of foreign and affairs and integration should take care of the issue.

The Austrian presidency is characterised by the fact that its incumbents – despite an independent electoral mandate through popular elections and comparatively wide-ranging powers – usually refrain from playing an overly political role, rather taking the role of arbiter above parties than party politician. Likewise, president Heinz Fischer (non-partisan, formerly member of the Social Democrats), waited until last week to join the debate following Slovakia’s offer to accept refugees. Although appreciative of the deal with its neighbour, he criticised the government saying that this could not be a long-term solution to the crisis. In an interview with state broadcaster ORF Fischer said he supported chancellor Fayman’s suggestion, yet also directly criticised the People’s Party for their confrontational style and reprimanded both parties for waging the conflict in the public eye).

Fischer is now entering the last year of his presidency (after serving two terms he is not eligible for re-election) and has generally avoided potentially controversial public statements or political interventions. Not having to depend on any party for support for a potential re-election he can certainly be more vocal and play a more active role without needing to fear voters or government/parliament. However, this only seems to part of the explanation for his current activism. A potential further reason for his intervention might not only be the deteriorating humanitarian situation but also the fact that the refugee crisis is increasingly exploited by the notorious right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) whose approval ratings have risen constantly throughout the last months. Fischer was a vocal critic of the FPÖ’s inclusion in the government with the People’s Party in 2002 (he was speaker of parliament at the time) for which Austria was ostracised by other EU members. It is thus possible that he is trying use his (apolitical) role and public standing to avoid a situation in which the issue of immigration is claimed by the far-right tarnishing the country’s reputation once again.

Romania – President-PM clash over fiscal reform during cohabitation

A previous post on Romania’s current period of cohabitation focused on the first serious clash between President Iohannis of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and PM Ponta of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) caused by the former’s veto on the Forestry Code. The relations between the head of state and the prime minister are now heading towards a full-blown crisis after President Iohannis rejected a tax-cutting plan that had been almost unanimously backed by the parliament, including the opposition led by the Liberal party.

The president’s justification for vetoing the forestry legislation in March 2015 was its breach of European Union competition law, as the new bill aimed to limit the economic activities of some companies. On July 17, President Iohannis rejected the government’s tax-cutting plan on the grounds that it had failed to obtain the approval of the European Commission and IMF officials and ran counter to the fiscal and budgetary strategy and the convergence programme.

The head of state deemed the new fiscal plan unsustainable in the long run. He argued against both excessive taxation and strong fiscal relaxation and criticised the government for failing to present a budget spending plan for 2016 including concrete measures aimed at reducing public expenditure to compensate for the extensive tax cuts. The prime minister denounced the president’s veto as a purely political act, aimed at blocking government actions at any cost and/or enforcing decisions made abroad against Romania’s interests.

The president’s decision to veto the Fiscal Code came as a surprise for several reasons. To start with, President Iohannis’ National Liberals not only gave their full support to the tax cuts in parliament, but also insisted on lowering the VAT rate from 24 percent to 19 percent (instead of 20 percent as the government had initially proposed). The reduction of the VAT rate to 19 percent had also been one of Klaus Iohannis’ core electoral pledges in the 2014 presidential campaign. The president’s opposition to the new fiscal legislation was therefore difficult to foresee, all the more so as he refrained from commenting on the new fiscal legislation while it was under public debate or when the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill with strong cross-party support on June 24. As a matter of fact, the president voiced his opposition to the tax cuts only a few days before the end of the 20-day period during which he is required to sign bills into law upon receiving them from the parliament or to request their re-examination.

Nevertheless, the president’s veto needs to be seen in a larger context. Economically, Romania’s Central Bank as well as the IMF and the EU have drawn attention to the unsustainable increase in fiscal deficit that the government’s fiscal easing plan might trigger in 2016. Additionally, prior to having its latest tax package passed by parliament, the government also lowered the VAT rate for food items from 24 percent to 9 percent with effect from 1 June 2015.

Politically, the relations between the Klaus Iohannis and Victor Ponta have worsened significantly after a criminal investigation was opened against the prime minister on June 5 on grounds of forgery, tax evasion, money-laundering, and conflict of interest. Since then he survived a parliamentary vote to have his immunity lifted, a no-confidence motion, and the president’s repeated calls for resignation. Eventually, PM Ponta did withdraw temporarily as a leader of Social Democrats, a move that opened up a fight for power inside the party.

Given the prime minister’s vulnerability on the party line, President Iohannis seized the opportunity to undermine his authority over the cabinet as well. Just days before he vetoed the fiscal code, the head of state rejected the prime minister’s first nomination for the Transport Ministry in a move that was reminiscent of his predecessor’s cohabitation wars. Undoubtedly, their relationship stands to deteriorate even further as the 2016 electoral contests are drawing closer. Under these circumstances, the head of state may be understandably unwilling to allow an embattled prime minister to use fiscal relaxation to his advantage in the 2016 local and general elections.

What next? Unless parliament calls an extraordinary session, a new vote on the Fiscal Code will take place in September. If legislators vote to preserve the initial form of the bill, the president has to promulgate it within ten days after receiving it unless he decides to challenge its validity at the Constitutional Court. Despite the bill’s initial passage in the Chamber of Deputies with just two votes against and one abstention, its fate the second time around depends on whether the National Liberals stick to their programmatic position or decide to rally around the president’s call. The prime minister has also announced the government’s readiness to speed up the enforcement of the VAT rate cut either by emergency ordinance or by assuming responsibility for the Fiscal Code in parliament.

Chiara Loda – Public Diplomacy and Intransigency in Domestic Affairs: The Azerbaijani Model and its Limits

This is a guest post by Chiara Loda is Marie Curie ITN “Post-Soviet Tensions” Fellow at Dublin City University


Azerbaijan is mainly known for being a South-Caucasian country blessed by energy resources. Currently, some of its oil is directly shipped to Turkey through the BTC pipeline and in the coming years the TANAP and TAP pipelines will connect the Azerbaijani gas reserves to Europe. In addition to enhancing the country’s energy strategy, in recent years President Ilham Aliyev has been personally committed to devising and implementing a successful public diplomacy policy. Multilateral forums, sport events and international partnerships are only some of the tools designed to win international sympathy. These actions are not simply aimed at mere prestige. Instead, making the international audience more sympathetic to the Azerbaijani position with regard to the Nagorno Karabakh confict is the main aim of public diplomacy. In spite of those efforts, though, the presence of political prisoners, a policy which is denied by the establishment but which is asserted by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, often brings international criticism to Baku.

The Eurovision Song contest, hosted in Baku in 2012, clearly showed how much Ilham Aliyev wanted the event to be memorable. Together with his wife Mehriban Aliyeva (who was the Chairperson of the Organizing Committee), President Aliyev actively participated in the preparation of the event. On that occasion, the state budget pledged $721 million to the project ($ 277 million was devoted solely to the construction of the new concert hall). This is a gigantic amount when we think that another oil-producer, Norway, which hosted the same contest in 2010, spent only $37 million. On this occasion, the president, facing international pressure, agreed to set free some political opponents. Even if some observers lamented the fact that new political arrests were made shortly after the end of the contest, the leadership did still wish to avoid negative media coverage during the event.

With time passing, those signs of goodwill have become less and less frequent and the attempt to enhance the international visibility of the country is no longer accompanied by efforts to find a point of compromise with international demands. More than that, external observations about freedom of speech and individual human rights are now often harshly dismissed as meddling in domestic affairs. This uncompromising attitude was clear during the address by President Aliyev at the Summer Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 24 June 2014). After the speech, the members of the Assembly were invited to ask questions. Mr McNamara, from the socialist group, asked about political prisoners in the country. He was given the following answer: “There are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. All of what Mr McNamara has said is based on false information or his biased approach to our country”.

The first ever European Games, hosted in Baku in June 2015, sum up new situation as a whole: the desire to host grand events and the inflexible resistance to external pressure. In 2012, after being rejected as a candidate country for the Olympic Games in 2020, Azerbaijan was the only country to volunteer to host the newly-established European Games in 2015. After securing the bid, President Aliyev constantly demonstrated his interest in the success of the event by visiting the newly inaugurated facilities almost every month and by often mentioning the importance of the event for the country. For this event too, his wife, Mehriban, chaired the organizing committee.

In addition to spending significant sums on infrastructure and promotional activities (the inauguration event alone, which was attended by no less than Lady Gaga, cost $100 million), the organizers volunteered to cover the travel and lodging expenses of all the foreign delegations, including the Armenian one. Additionally, the city was polished up for the event. Weddings and funerals in the capital were suspended for the month of June. In Baku, a few days before the games, almost everybody was complaining about the closed traffic lanes, the inflexibility of the traffic police, and the exorbitant costs of the events.

Given this massive effort, some personalities in Azerbaijani society expected the president to pardon some high-profile jailed dissidents. That would have sheltered the country from some criticism. Instead, the aforementioned attempts to impress visitors were not matched by other signs of goodwill and, in spite of international organizations and media outlets calling for the release of political prisoners, no action was taken. Remarkably, nobody was even pardoned by the president on the 28th of May, which is the Azerbaijani republic day, even such an amnesty almost always occurs each year on this day.

Even if domestic dissent was not widely voiced, the Azerbaijani intelligentsia seemed highly perplexed by this contradictory approach. A local scholar, interviewed a few days before the games, revealed his scepticism. According to him, governing elites failed to realize that all the Western reporters would have mentioned in their articles not only the magnificence of the stadiums but also the issue of political prisoners. Another prominent figure said bluntly (on condition of anonymity) that keeping people in jail only makes them popular and that this obstinacy on the domestic front is directly hindering the national energy strategy.

The media coverage seemed to confirm those worries. Media outlets such as the BBC and the NY Times, writing about Azerbaijan on the day of the opening of the games, did not hide their concern for the mixed human rights record of the country. In addition, on the same day (12th of June) the German Bundestag adopted a resolution which linked the Azerbaijani presidential elections in 2013 with the deterioration in rights. On the state TV Channel, AZTV,  Mr. Aliyev condemned the perceived attempt by Germany to set global normative standards.

The international reaction to the games (which were attended by only a few heads of state) constitutes a lesson not only for the Azerbaijani establishment but also for future emulators. Public diplomacy efforts are likely to be severely undermined by intransigency on domestic affairs. Ilham Aliyev, a strong proponent of this model, now has to rethink the cost-benefit ratio. Time will tell if the country will become more responsive to international requests, if only symbolicly, or if the closed nature of the regime will be reinforced. The challenges presented by the drop of the global oil prices, together with the possible return of Iran to the energy market, are additional factors that further complicate this equation.

Chiara Loda is Marie Curie ITN “Post-Soviet Tensions” Fellow at Dublin City University. Currently she is based in the South Caucasian region where she is conducting extensive fieldwork. This research was supported by a Marie Curie Initial Training Network within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (grant no: 316825).

Tanzania – The ruling CCM party unites (for now) around a presidential nominee

Africa’s longest reigning ruling party has dodged a bullet. Sunday 12 July, Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) nominated its presidential flag bearer after a bruising campaign threatened to split the party. John Magufuli, current Minister of Works, will carry the CCM banner in the October general elections, and very likely become next president of Tanzania. Widely characterized as a ‘hardworking’ individual unburdened by factional allegiances, Magufuli’s nomination led observers both inside and out of CCM to praise the party for finding a unifying candidate. The current celebratory mood should not, however, blind us to the significance of the nomination process itself. The factional rifts, unprecedented expense and accusations of violating party rules that characterized the campaigns point to internal party dynamics that are both weakening CCM and exacerbating Tanzania’s endemic corruption.

In brief – Tanzania’s political economy of corruption

Over the last ten years, Tanzania has weathered an unprecedented number of high profile (and highly costly) scandals linked to the misappropriation of public funds. These corruption cases include a 2006 decision to award a lucrative emergency power supply tender to a shell company, fraudulent payments worth $131m made by the Bank of Tanzania to 22 local companies, and the most recent controversy over funds diverted to top government officials out of an escrow account set up by the state-owned electric supply company.

Analysts link this increase in corruption cases to growing factional competition within the ruling party. This factionalism both fuels grand corruption and makes it more difficult to check.  As Cooksey (2011) argues, ‘within the ruling party, the use of rent-seeking of all types to advance the interests of groups of rentiers intent on taking control of the party has heightened pressures to loot the public purse and natural resource.’ Gray (2015) meanwhile highlights how the balance of power between these party factions undermines CCM’s ability to control rent-seeking activities. Despite the party’s strong formal political institutions and appearance of centralized authority, ‘neither the president nor any one particular faction could enforce its particular agenda within the ruling party.’ These interest groups remain ‘weak vis-à-vis each other,’ unable to police or channel their competitors’ rent-seeking ambitions.

Predictably, CCM inability to manage rampant corruption is hurting the party politically. Each new scandal provides fresh ammunition to an emboldened opposition while frustration is also spreading within the party itself. Efforts to reassert the authority of ‘the party’ over corrupt elements in its midst have, as already implied, largely failed, leading to an internal dissonance that does little to bolster CCM’s credibility in the eyes of the public.

The presidency – the ultimate political prize

CCM’s factional competition—and its consequences—are most pronounced when it comes to winning the party’s presidential nomination. With this year’s presidential nomination, factional tensions reached new heights; their roots, however, lie in a long history of nomination struggles.

Already in 1995, the presidential succession within CCM was marred by controversy.  In order to win the party ticket, candidates had to make it over a number of hurdles in a process that has changed little to date. First, they had to collect endorsements from a set number of party rank-and-file. After submitting their nomination forms to the party head quarters, contestants then had to get the stamp of approval from the party’s ethics committee. In a third step, the Central Committee, composed of roughly 40 top party leaders, had to select five names from the pool of eligible contenders. The National Executive Committee (NEC) was then tasked with selecting three names from the five, which were finally forwarded the National Congress, the supreme decision-making body.

In 1995, two young CCM politicians, Edward Lowassa and Jakaya Kikwete, threw their hats into the ring. When Lowassa’s name was cut by the central committee, he aligned behind Kikwete, who eventually won the largest share of votes in the National Congress. Former president Julius Nyerere, the highly respected ‘father of the nation,’ intervened however, declaring Kikwete too young, and calling on the runner up, Benjamin Mkapa to take the nomination.

Lowassa and Kikwete were not deterred. After serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mkapa, Kikwete returned to try his luck in 2005, again with the backing of fellow MP and long-time Minister Lowassa. The two are reported to have made a tacit agreement that in ten years time, Kikwete would support Lowassa’s presidential bid. They ran an aggressive nomination campaign. With the help of Rostam Aziz, a wealthy Tanzanian ‘oligarch,’ they marshaled funds to help gather a large number of endorsements, far exceeding the party’s minimum requirement. The CCM ethics committee was tasked with compiling dossiers on all contestants, which led to a recommendation that Kikwete be eliminated early due to excessive campaign spending. President Mkapa, however, shelved the dossiers, maintaining that there was ‘no Mr. Clean’ so no need to single out any particular contender. Other prominent CCM leaders meanwhile argued that there would be public unrest if Kikwete were eliminated given his widespread popularity. Kikwete eventually won the nomination, but the disregard for party procedure, the widespread use of money to climb to the top, and the harsh criticism directed by some party members against Kikwete’s fellow contestants meant CCM was left divided.

The party appeared to reunite at the start of Kikwete’s first term, basking in his 80% vote share garnered in the 2005 presidential elections. This honeymoon proved short lived. In 2007, the so-called Richmond scandal surfaced. The subsequent investigations were aggressively pursued by Parliament under the leadership of Speaker Samuel Sitta. They culminated in a committee report which included a recommendation that Lowassa, whom Kikwete had appointed Prime Minister, should relinquish his premiership. When a majority of CCM MPs supported the committee’s position, some motivated out of principle and others out of a desire to distance themselves from corruption, Lowassa had little choice but to resign. He did so defensively, alleging that the Richmond investigations had been nothing more than a witch hunt.

There were no subsequent prosecutions, but the fallout from Richmond led to the emergence of two loose factions, the ‘anti-corruption crusaders’, including a number of MPs with Speaker Sitta as their unofficial leader and the Lowassa camp, which included notably Rostam Aziz and the then CCM Secretary General, Yusuf Makamba. Beyond the seemingly altruistic aims of the Sitta camp, many observers alleged that Sitta had anterior motives. They noted how the then Speaker had also helped campaign for Kikwete in 2005 and had been frustrated in his hopes to accede to the premiership, subsequently resolving to use his parliamentary position to pursue Lowassa. For his part, Kikwete endeavoured to distance himself from both camps, but the fallout with Lowassa was profound as the President had done little to defend his Prime Minister in the heat of the Richmond scandal. Lowassa quickly set to work building up ties with local party structures, notably through the CCM youth wing, seemingly in preparation for a future presidential bid.

The tensions between these two camps led to a series of clashes within the party. In 2009, a NEC meeting failed to oust Sitta as Speaker of Parliament after many argued he was working against party interests. After appearing on the verge of challenging Kikwete for the presidency in 2010, Lowassa as well as Rostam Aziz—who faced fresh corruption allegations—lost their NEC positions in April 2011. Sitta, meanwhile, regained his. The Sitta camp was also credited with removing Yusuf Makamba, a Lowassa sympathizer, as Party Secretary General. Makamba was first replaced by Mukama, alleged to be a tacit Lowassa supporter, and later by the reform-minded Abdulrahman Kinana. Kinana along with the party Ideology and Publicity Secretary, Nape Nnauye, have positioned the party secretariat firmly behind the anti-corruption campaign. In particular, Kinana launched a national tour to revive the party’s ties with its base. He used his regional visits to preach an anti-corruption gospel and to reassure CCM members of the party’s good intentions. He has also warned the national leadership of the dangers for CCM electorally if it does not clean up its image.

Nevertheless, the Lowassa faction’s strength did not wane, despite his struggles with the party leadership. Throughout Kikwete’s second term, Lowassa and his supporters continued to build their network, notably among regional and local party leaders. All signs pointed towards another battle ahead, this time over the 2015 CCM presidential nomination.

The 2015 nomination campaigns

This year’s presidential nomination process has been billed as a struggle of ‘the party’ versus the individual. Could CCM stick to its institutional principles and procedures or would it be overrun by the maneuvering of opportunistic factions?

An unprecedented 42 presidential hopefuls entered the race, circling the country to collect endorsements. Lowassa had by far the most expensive and elaborate campaign. He launched his bid in late May at a rally, which attracted thousands. He went on to collect 850,000 endorsements from party members, far exceeding the 450 required in the party rules. Samuel Sitta also entered the race, although his was not a strong campaign. A greater threat to Lowassa’s ambitions was Bernard Membe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and rumored to be Kikwete’s favorite (also his brother).

While many within the party described the large number of contenders as an indication of CCM’s internal party democracy, others pointed to what appeared to be strategic efforts by some to act as spoilers, crowding the race to make it more difficult for a few heavyweights to dominate. Party members were also disturbed by the at times vicious attacks contestants levied against each other, in the process laying bare the party’s internal divisions. The anti-corruption message remained a common theme for those positioned against Lowassa. The latter, meanwhile, systematically distanced himself from corruption allegations while also seemingly trying to make a virtue out of wealth, claiming he hated poverty and there was nothing wrong with being rich. With this message, he hit back against the Ujamaa (socialist) heritage of the Nyerere era CCM, which many of his detractors argue the party should try to reclaim.

Lowassa was by no means the only candidate running a controversial—and expensive—campaign. Six presidential hopefuls, including Lowassa and Membe, were previously sanctioned by the party for early campaigning. Party leaders also issued repeated warning about money spent getting endorsements breaching electoral rules. One very rough estimate of the amount spent on endorsements alone (whether directly or indirectly) resulted in a disturbingly high figure: $10m.

As the party neared the next phase of the nomination process, the meetings of top party organs, tensions started to rise still further. Rumors quickly spread that the ethics committee had cut Lowassa’s name. The Central Committee then delayed considerably in announcing the five shortlisted names, which fuelled concerns about behind the scenes wrangling. When the Committee finally did announce the list, Lowassa’s name was conspicuously absent although Membe made the cut. Three Committee members took the unprecedented step of denouncing the committee’s decision, claiming it went against party procedure. Lowassa supporters—many of whom had been bussed to Dodoma, seat of the CCM head quarters—began protesting in the streets, which quickly led to the police cordoning off parts of the city.

The tension continued as the National Executive Committee convened. After delegates began singing a Lowassa campaign song, a dazed Kikwete broke with protocol, interjecting, ‘This has never happened before.’ A number of delegates continued to push for Lowassa’s name to be added to the list, an effort overcome only after interventions from elder statesmen, including former presidents Mkapa and Mwinyi. Lowassa supporters reportedly did effectively mobilize, however, in ensuring Membe’s name did not make it through to the next round, thereby exacting collateral damage on the rival faction. One additional event casting a shadow over the whole affair involved the seizure by police of suitcases containing TSh700m (over $300K) allegedly meant to bribe delegates.

Out of this fractious process, three candidates, John Magufuli, Asharose Migoro and Amina Salum Ali made it through to the Naitonal Congress, which handed Magufuli a resounding victory with 87% of the vote.

Unity restored?

As noted above, the reaction to Magufuli’s nomination was celebratory. The message throughout the next day’s press was that CCM had indeed managed to overcome the factions and reassert ‘the party’ and its principles. Magufuli had conducted his campaign ‘quietly’ with little if any media attention. He had collected the required 450 endorsements, no more. He had a long history of serving as a minister under both Mkapa and Kikwete and for the most part avoided entanglement in any major corruption scandal. All of these factors prompted even disillusioned CCM members, nostalgic for a by-gone era of less commercial politics, to praise the party’s decision.

An editorial in the leading Swahili paper Mwananchi (The Citizen) was nevertheless more circumspect, warning, ‘The task ahead for the party is even greater than that which has just ended… This party has not yet healed the wounds and cracks that resulted from the struggle between the candidates and their factions.’ While CCM escaped with a seemingly good candidate, this was in some ways by default as factions cancelled each other out. The nomination process made it very clear just how pervasive this factional politics is, and the extent to which it is enmeshed in CCM’s largely failed efforts to control corruption and the monetized political competition it engenders. However good Magufuli may be as a candidate, the nomination of no one individual can transform the situation.