WP159: Does clientelism help Tanzanian MPs establish long-term electoral support?


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Working papers
Machiko Tsubura

Tanzanian Members of Parliament (MPs) and political analysts describe the primary roles of MPs with a variety of phrases: benefactors, providers, executors, social workers, saviours, multi-faceted donors, even “walking ATMs". Indeed, in Tanzania, where a majority of citizens are poor and the government lacks resources and capacity to provide sufficient social services, MPs provide various kinds of financial and material assistance to their constituents to support their lives and cultivate their electoral support. This type of exchange builds clientelistic relationships between MPs and voters, which is common in developing countries.

In Tanzania, clientelism in electoral politics was highly restricted during the one-party socialist period between the mid-1960s and the 1980s but became prominent following the transition to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. In 2000, it was enhanced in part by the legalisation of election incentives known as takrima (meaning “hospitality”). The legalisation of takrima raised public expectations that MPs wouldsupply tangible goods and contributed to the expansion of clientelistic relationships between MPs and voters. After having been used widely in the elections of 2000 and 2005, takrima was banned in 2006, and it has been an illegal practice since then.

Against this unique background, this paper uses Afrobarometer survey results to examine how election incentives and electoral clientelism affected public views on MPs in Tanzania after the prohibition of takrima in 2006. A central question is whether clientelism helps MPs gain long-term electoral support. To address this question, I employed an innovative approach by adding data on levels of electoral competitiveness and MPs’ engagement with parliamentary discussions to Afrobarometer data sets to create original variables. A regression analysis of these data demonstrates that Tanzanians who had been offered election incentives in the elections of 2010 and had clientelistic views on the roles of MPs were less likely to approve of the performance of MPs. This suggests that clientelism is not necessarily a sustainable tool for MPs to establish long-term electoral support in Tanzania.