Youth vote a game changer in 2015 Tanzania election
When he left University of Dar Es Salaam, 25-year-old John Simba,the head of one of Tanzania’s political Party’s social media department,informed that between August and October he will have to deal with the heavy workload in his Mikocheni office as electioneering period starts.Leading a team of 22 media-savvy supporters, most of whom are students and graduates from local universities,Simba is in charge of managing the party’s presence on various social networking sites, including Instagram,Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. His team is also expected to support handling the social media accounts of chief patron and presidential candidate.The team in Mikocheni is running its activities 24 hours a day, mainly from an office located on the second floor of the party’s strategic planning offices.“We divide our team into four different work shifts to ensure that those party supporters living in the Western world, for example, always receive updates about the party despite Tanzania time difference.We also need to help our members reply to mentions on Twitter and Facebook posts as they can go online for a limited time only, mostly during breakfast or before sleeping.”
With support from an army of social media enthusiasts,political parties in Tanzania have become one some of the most popular topics in the cyberspace. Today,most of them have been endorsed by thousands of Facebook users, most of them young people.According to some statistics in my possession,Tanzanians aged 18 years and above and those married are eligible to vote in the general and presidential elections to be held on 25th October 2015.Data also shows that Tanzania has more than five million people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are eligible to vote for the first time in the 2015 legislative election.The same data also shows that the country has 17 million citizens between the ages of 17 and 35, of the total registered voters.The abundance of young people has also explained why Tanzania has earned the title as one of the most active African nations on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook in the past few years, inspiring political parties and politicians to field their election campaigns in cyberspace.“Many Tanzanians label the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as an old-generation party but its young supporters want to prove this wrong as the party also believes in the important role of the younger generation, according to one of its researchers.
Established in 1977 as a result of a merger of mainland Tanzania’s Tanganyika African National Union(TANU) and Afro Shirazi party from Zanzibar Islamic political parties, the CCM is the country’s largest political party, but it has seen its popularity decline in the past three general elections. The CCM, which many surveys predict will do well in the upcoming election, has also run various campaign programs for the youth, but unlike many other parties, it has adopted a scientific approach and the party had run a joint study with a survey company to understand the attitudes of young Tanzanian voters so that the party could design suitable programs to attract young voters.There are expectations that the large participation of young voters in the upcoming election will increase the election participation level.Despite the aggressive campaign efforts of many political parties and politicians, however, there are many first-time voters who are apparently still undecided about who to vote for. “I’m willing to participate in the upcoming general elections but I’m pretty confused since there are so many legislative candidates on the list,” said 23-year-old Mzumbe University student when I sought her views.In Contador Harrison’s views, politicians and presidential hopefuls in Tanzania must convince young voters by sharing their strategy to create prosperity instead of merely selling their personal image.
It’s important for presidential aspirants both in CCM and opposition to introduce their ideas on, for instance, energy-related issues. They need to share their plan on how they will manage the nation’s energy resources to bring prosperity for all citizens Young voters must support the most capable politicians and leaders no matter how old they are.Although he acknowledged the importance of learning the track record of politicians, young Tanzanians must judge them mainly based on their strategy to develop the nation.Having extensively researched the uses of social media in Tanzania’s political campaigns,I think political parties needed to establish interactive campaign platforms to transform young voter interest in their party into concrete support at the polls. Setting up a good-looking website alone is definitely not enough. Politicians and political parties must make sure that their websites or other social media platforms can be navigated easily and continuously updated with the latest news.However,most young Tanzanian voters are already overwhelmed with media content, making them reluctant to learn about politicians’ track records.The CCM presidential nomination process concludes this weekend but that will just be the beginning of battle for young voters who will influence the outcome of the 2015 Tanzania parliamentary and presidential elections.