Why October 25th may not be a field day for Tanzania’s ruling party

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has been selected to lead the United Nations (UN) team to Tanzania. The UN team will be on hand to observe the country’s presidential elections that will take place on October 25, 2015. According to Alvaro Rodriguez, the UN resident coordinator for East African nations, the presence of the UN observers will ensure transparent and credible polls. However there are indicators that the upcoming elections will be fiercely contested by the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).

The October 25th polls will be the fifth election to take place since the commencement of the Multi-System party in 1992. Two major contending parties presented their candidates who have been campaigning since August. Edward Lowassa is the candidate for CHADEMA, while John Magufuli is from the ruling party, CCM.

Tanzanian Politics

Prior 1992, Tanzania operated a single party system. There was only one party – CCM- whose chairman automatically becomes the president. CCM was formed by Julius Nyerere in 1977, through a merger between the Tangayika African National Union (TANU) and Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), the ruling party in Zanzibar.

CCM became the only legally acceptable party in the country and every five years, CCM’s national chairman is appointed president for a five year term. This pattern continued until 1992, when amendments were made to the constitution and more political parties were licensed by the National Assembly.

The first ever multi-party general elections took place in 1995 and 4 political parties presented their presidential candidates, Benjamin Mpaka of CCM won. Although till date, there are over 20 registered political parties in Tanzania, CCM’s presidential candidates won every election leading up to 2010, thereby giving the party supremacy and making it seem like the one party system is still in place.

The Contenders

John Magufuli (b. 1959)

With a doctorate in Chemistry, Magufuli has served as a Member of Parliament. From 1995 to 2000, he was the Deputy Minister of Works and he became the Minister of Works from 2000 to 2006, after which he served in other ministries like- Lands and Settlement as well as Livestock and Fisheries before he was again appointed as the Minister of Works in 2010. A position he has held till date.

Magufuli made history by selecting a woman, Samia Hassan Suluhu as his running mate.

Edward Lowassa (b.1953)

A former CCM member, Lowassa has held several positions in the government since 1989. He was also the 8th Tanzanian prime minister and he served between 2005 and 2008. Due to his involvement in a fraudulent deal during his tenure as Prime Minister, he was forced to resign. Also, in 2009, his company was charged for money laundering.

In July 2015, Lowassa was removed from the list of presidential aspirants in CCM. In retaliation, He left the party he had been with for over 35 years. He  accused them of being dictators, undemocratic and greedy. He joined CHADEMA in August and was declared the presidential candidate.

Who will win?

In a survey carried out by Twawesa, a monitoring and evaluation agency in Tanzania, about 6 out of 10 people, constituting about 65 percent of the entire population will vote for CCM candidate, John Mafuguli. This data suggests that there is still a strong support for the ruling party.

While Tanzania has been rated as the most stable and less prone to violence in East Africa, political analysts suggest that there may be violence, considering this is the first time CCM will have a major opposition since its inception. Following the campaign trail, it was clear that it will be a close call between the candidates.

However, Lowassa might have an edge with the youth who make up over 16 percent of the entire population. According to the former United States assistant secretary of state for African affairs- Johnnie Carson, CCM has started losing its appeal among the Tanzanian youth and due to a backlog of unfulfilled promises by the president and other members of the Parliament, they might not be favored in the upcoming polls.

With the tension surrounding the upcoming elections and the need to ensure that it is free and fair, the government has put a ban on witchcraft and killings of albinos. It is widely believed in Tanzania that using an albino’s body parts brings good luck and there are reports that witch doctors are usually patronized by politicians especially when elections are close.

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