The JK popularity Paradox digg President Jakaya Kikwete By Lucas Liganga and Bernard James President Jakaya Kikwetes consistent high ratings in opinion polls in which his Cabinet ministers and other government officials have generally scored poorly among the respondents, is somewhat of a political paradox in the run-up to the General Election in October. That the President is headed for re-election with a resounding majority to his second and final five-year term is not in doubt, as those sampled in the various polls have approved of his performance. The only irony is that the national chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is placed far ahead of his principal assistants, and yet they are his appointees. The question some observers, including political analysts and scientists have been grappling on Mr Kikwetes runaway popularity amid the numerous challenges faced by his government is how come a general can retain the confidence of the people while the army he heads is virtually losing the battle. Some critics have even suggested that the poll results are probably being cooked to portray Mr Kikwete as the most preferred presidential candidate in this years election. The debate was heightened last week by the latest opinion poll by the Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania (Redet) Institute of the University of Dar es Salaam, which gave Mr Kikwete a confidence rating of a record 89.7 per cent. Vice-President Ali Mohamed Shein scored 79.9 per cent, and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda had 83.9 per cent, but the ministers managed only 25.7 per cent. The poll also showed that 60 per cent of the 232 MPs elected in the various constituencies, and who mostly belong to CCM, would have lost their seats had elections been held last month, when the opinion poll was conducted. Contacted for comment by the Sunday Citizen on the apparent paradox of the popular President who leads an unpopular team, a cross section of leaders, some academics and other analysts gave mixed views. The Minister of State in the Prime Ministers office for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Philip Marmo, faulted the findings of the Redet poll, questioning the methodology. Mr Marmo said: I also get surprised about the results because it is the ministers who perform on behalf of the President. The government executes its duties in a collective manner. The MP for Mbulu in Manyara region added: There is a problem of perception of ordinary people on how the government works. I think the respondents in the opinion polls do not know the actual situation. It is very possible that they believe everything is being done by one person. But on a parting note, the minister said he respects the views of the people, as they have a right to express their opinions. While State House Assistant Press Secretary Premy Kibanga did not wish to explain why Mr Kikwete is rated higher than his Cabinet, she said he was, indeed, a good performer who kept his promises. Citing the findings of the poll, she said health and education were some of the areas where the progress made had earned the President a lot of mileage. The President is fulfilling what he promised at a level the wananchi appreciate, she told the Sunday Citizen. The fact that women, who experience more difficulties in life than men, appear satisfied with the Presidents leadership than men, is a clear manifestation of a leader who is performing. The executive secretary of Agenda Participation 2000, a non- governmental organisation working in the fields of democracy, culture, governance and conflict resolution, Mr Moses Malaba, said: It is possible that either the questions asked by Redet or the sampling were not appropriate. He added: The questions were too general. The people must be asked another question to make them substantiate why they think the performance of the President is high. There was a danger, he warned, of the people confusing a personality cult with the level of performance. As an individual, the people who love him see him as a very good person and they sometimes fail to distinguish between this and his performance in the government. The CCM secretary for publicity and ideology, Mr John Chiligati, said people were impressed with the implementation of the partys election manifesto under President Kikwetes leadership. Mr Chiligati, who is also the minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements, defended his Cabinet colleagues, saying they were doing their level best to improve the provision of water, health and education and build infrastructure. In response to a query on Redets independence in carrying out its opinion polls, of its officials, Dr Benson Bana, denied that the research institute was pro-government. We are very impartial and candid. We conduct our researches professionally without any bias. Dr Bana said the high approval ratings for the President confirmed that people have confidence him and not his ministers. The people are not ignorant. They have eyes to see all, he said, adding: When Redet opinion polls showed that approval ratings for the President were low in 2007 and 2008, we were praised by the same people who are accusing us today. They said Redet was doing a wonderful job. But the Civic United Front (CUF) chairman, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, who is also a prominent economist, said the poll was not logical. How could the President score an impressive rating while the poll shows that his subordinates have performed very poorly? A philosophy lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Azaveri Lwaitama, said: The Redet polls were like polls in the West, which were only designed to help politicians. He added: There is nothing wrong with Redet. They asked strategic questions and they got answers. Faulting the research, Dr Lwaitama said the polls had been designed to encourage people to choose what they were familiar with. If one examines the way the polls are conducted one finds there is no paradox in President Kikwetes popularity, he said. Dr Lwaitama said it would be better for Redet to stop mentioning personalities when conducting its opinion polls and focused on candidates qualities and issues facing the country. CUF Nominated MP Ismail Jussa Ladhu dismissed the Redet poll as a practical joke, questioning the research institutes credibility. He said President Kikwetes administration was a one-man-show, claiming that major decisions in regions or districts awaited him and were made by him during his visits upcountry.