University of Cambridge > > Africa Research Forum > When There’s No Party, Nobody Comes: Campaign Rally Attendance in Rural Tanzania

When There’s No Party, Nobody Comes: Campaign Rally Attendance in Rural Tanzania

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Convening campaign rallies is thought to be something that political parties can do in the absence of strong party organisation. Existing work by Jeremy Horowitz contends that presidential candidates’ rallies can be deployed as substitutes for campaigning by local party organs and low-level electoral candidates. Consequently, parties use their presidential candidate rallies to plug the gaps by concentrating them in swing areas where their party is organisationally weak. In this paper, using qualitative data from the 2015 Tanzanian general election campaign, I show that parliamentary candidates behave the other way around. To be precise, they concentrate their rallies where their party is organisationally strong. I present evidence in three parts to show that this pattern of rally dispersion arises in response to the risk of low rally attendance. Firstly, parliamentary candidates’ rallies are vulnerable to dynamics of crowd non-formation and crowd dispersion that occur at rallies in Tanzania. Secondly, local party organs can protect rallies from those dynamics by mobilising attendance. Thirdly, parliamentary candidates concentrate their rallies where they are organisationally strong to protect them from the risk of having no audiences.

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