Election fever as Tanzania goes to the polls
2015-10-15 16:34:24 -
World News
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Michael McGowan

 

Tanzanians are set to go to the polls on 25 October for presidential and parliamentary elections in what local media are describing as the tightest race in the east African country’s history. In fact the fight between the main candidates for the presidency of Tanzania is turning out to be a titanic struggle following internal splits and allegations about a string of scandals within the ruling CCM party, and a former prime minister who has switched parties to become the main opposition presidential candidate.

 

President Jakaya Kikwete, who has served his maximum two five-year terms is stepping down after his two term rule comes to a mandatory end. His CCM party – short for Chama Cha Mapinduzi – has named works minister Dr John Magufuli as his prospective successor. An unexpected choice to be the ruling party’s candidate, he is a former maths and chemistry teacher and comes from the Geita gold-mining region south of Lake Victoria. 

 

He has selected as his running mate Samia Suluhu Hassan for the vice presidential position. This is in line with the country’s constitution that stipulates that if the president comes from the mainland, the vice president must be from Zanzibar.

 

The opposition Chadema candidate, meanwhile, is Edward Lowassa, the former CCM prime minister, who suddenly resigned and switched his allegiance after he was ruled out as CCM’s choice. Instead, he will represent a coalition of Tanzania’s four main opposition parties as their joint presidential candidate. Previously he was prime minister from 2005 to 2008, when he resigned after being implicated in a corruption scandal, though he denies the allegations as politically motivated. His running mate will be Dani Haji, a former minister in Zanzibar.

 

 

Serious challenge

CCM – and its precursor Tanu, which flourished under the charismatic leadership of Tanzania’s first president Julius Nyerere – has governed the country since the nation gained independence from Britain in 1961, and launched its campaign with a massive rally in the economic capital of Dar es Salaam. But that show of confidence masks the first real threat to its position. Although Magufuli is expected to take over as the country’s fifth president, the opposition is finally being seen as a serious challenge.

 

It may be no coincidence, then, that policing the campaign has become a serious issue. At a meeting of the Mwalimu Nyrere Foundation in Dar, it was claimed that the police were working in favour of CCM and against the opposition, and that tear gas was used to clear supporters of Chadema during an incident in Mwanza. Tanzania has been one of Africa’s more peaceful countries since its independence and one of the continent’s strongest democracies, but a close and hotly contested election might challenge those assumptions.

 

But it’s an election that’s captured the interest of Tanzanian as never before, with nearly half the adult population – a significant chunk of the country’s 50 million people – tuning in to local radio for the latest updates. In fact, interest in the election is so high following the recent dramatic changes in the political scene that some sections of the media are referring to the election campaign as ‘Tanzania’s tsunami’. Whether the results will make a difference for the 12 million living below the national poverty line remains to be seen.

 

 

Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

TAGS : Tanzania Presidential election Parliamentary election Jakaya Kikwete CCM Dr John Magufuli Samia Suluhu Hassan Zanzibar Dani Haji
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