Democracy, dictatorship and demonstrations: What do citizens really think?

Citizens’ support for democracy and free expression is strong. Almost all citizens (95%) think that they should be free to criticize the government when they believe it has done something wrong. Seven out of ten citizens (69%) agree that democracy is their preferred form of government, although opposition supporters are a little more likely than ruling party supporters to say that undemocratic government can sometimes be preferable (18% compared to 15% of ruling party supporters). Nonetheless a large majority of citizens (86%) believe that Tanzania needs many political parties to offer citizens real choices in who governs them.

These findings were released by Twaweza in a research brief titled Democracy, dictatorship and demonstrations: What do citizens really think? The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. The findings are based on data collected from 1,602 respondents across Mainland Tanzania (Zanzibar is not covered in these results) between 23 and 29 August 2016.

Despite these strong preferences for democratic governance, citizens have mixed views on the role of the opposition. Eight out of ten (80%) think that, after elections, the opposition should accept defeat and help the government to develop the country, and 20% think that they should monitor and hold the government accountable. Similarly, 49% think that rallies outside campaign periods are a distraction for the government and the public, and inhibit development.  Fewer than half (47%) think that opposition parties should be able to hold rallies whenever they want. Again this is split by party affiliation: 71% of those who feel close to opposition parties support having rallies compared to 37% of ruling party supporters.

Furthermore, 6 out of 10 Tanzanians (60%) support the ban on political rallies including 70% of ruling party supporters and 33% of opposition supporters. Half of citizens (50%) are in large part unwilling to join demonstrations in principle, while 3 out of 10 (29%) are willing to do so. Citizens who are closer to opposition parties are much more willing to demonstrate (43% compared to 27% of ruling party supporters).  Young people are also more likely to say they are willing to join demonstrations (35% of 18-29 year olds are willing to compared to 15% of over 50s).


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