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Pater Rules Best: Political Kinship and Party Politics in Tanzania's Presidential Elections



In 2005 Tanzanians elected Jakaya Kikwete to the presidency with 80 percent of the popular vote. Like his predecessors, Kikwete emerged from the ranks of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM). CCM also secured 96 percent of mainland parliamentary constituencies. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Singida region between 2004 and 2006, I examine the production and performance of a political rhetoric in Tanzania that centers on notions of fatherhood and filial obedience. I explore how, in the realm of contemporary Tanzanian multiparty politics, paternal metaphors offer a discursive medium for weaving a seemingly unified narrative from the strands of competing and contradictory structures of authority – structures that turn on local conceptions of age, lineage, and kinship. This narrative serves to gloss over political and socioeconomic disparities, to confirm rural Tanzanians’ sense of themselves as citizens of a gerontocracy, and to produce a sense of historical continuity in a time of radical political and economic transformation – even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.