Tanzania’s presidential race heats up

A two-horse race for Tanzania’s presidency is shaping up between former prime minister Edward Lowassa and current Minister for Infrastructure John Pombe Magufuli.
Mr Magufuli is the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party presidential nominee while Mr Lowassa is the prominent candidate the party spurned.
Mr Lowassa announced his decision to join the main opposition party Chadema last week, soon after being eliminated before the balloting from the race for the CCM ticket.
class=”EA-DefaultText”He became the highest-ranking party member to join the opposition in 20 years.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Chadema has already confirmed that Mr Lowassa will now become its presidential candidate and subsequently the opposition coalition’s joint candidate.
class=”EA-DefaultText”His candidature as an opposition candidate is expected to present a major challenge for Mr Magufuli, whose nomination had been deemed a sure ticket to State House owing to CCM’s unbeaten record since its founding in 1977.
class=”EA-DefaultText”While CCM is deeply entrenched in Tanzania, Mr Lowassa is considered a force to reckon with, given his track record as a politician and the clout he commanded in the ruling party where he was a member of its national executive council (NEC) since 1990, and a party executive at district, regional and head office level from 1977 to 1989.
class=”EA-DefaultText”He also chaired President Jakaya Kikwete’s campaigns in 2005.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Underdog party
class=”EA-DefaultText”Chadema, which has always been the underdog in presidential and parliamentary elections, was exuding confidence that more CCM leaders and followers would cross over to the opposition following Mr Lowassa’s move. However, this has yet to be seen.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Despite a section of the public questioning Mr Lowassa’s integrity due to scandals he has been associated with in the party, and the opposition consistently labelling him one of the most corrupt Tanzanians, political analysts were optimistic that the high-profile defection would usher in real competitive two-party politics for the first time in Tanzania.
class=”EA-DefaultText”The biggest challenge for the opposition over the years has been the lack of financial and human resources. However, Mr Lowassa, who is a wealthy politician with key private sector connections, brings money and support to the opposition.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Nonetheless, CCM has enjoyed a strong base of traditional voters who include women, elders and most voters from rural areas. Many retired senior government officials from the army and other security organs afterwards become regional and district commissioners and work to protect the interests of CCM after retirement.
class=”EA-DefaultText”The decision by Chadema to accept Mr Lowassa seems to have divided the party, as key figures are said to have protested the decision. 
class=”EA-DefaultText”Opposition chief whip and Chadema legal aisor Tundi Lissu said that all Chadema leaders were involved in the decision to nominate Mr Lowassa as their presidential candidate. 
class=”EA-DefaultText”“Chadema is looking to secure over 133 seats in the forthcoming election, which would enable us to form the government. The party is united and Mr Lowassa will be our presidential candidate, for Chadema and Ukawa (the opposition alliance). We all agreed to the decision to nominate him,” said Mr Lissu.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Hidden dossier
class=”EA-DefaultText”But Benson Bana, a political scientist and pollster at the University of Dar es Salaam, said CCM is a political party that is deep-rooted in people’s lives and has identified itself as an institution unlike other political parties. Therefore, removing it from power requires planning and many years of hard work rather than mere talk.
class=”EA-DefaultText”He added that Chadema needs to run an issue-based campaign, which would show up CCM’s policy failures rather than thinking that Mr Lowassa joining them automatically guarantees victory.
class=”EA-DefaultText”Kitila Mkumbo, a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, said regardless of how you look at Mr Lowassa’s defection, the forthcoming election is set to be the most exciting ever and events happening in the next few weeks are likely to determine its outcome.
class=”EA-DefaultText”“Mr Lowassa has loyal and influential supporters who are likely to continue supporting him. Young people are excited about his candidacy and they are Chadema’s biggest supporters,” said Prof Mkumbo.
class=”EA-DefaultText”On the other hand, Prof Mkumbo cautioned that CCM could be hiding a dossier against Mr Lowassa.
class=”EA-DefaultText”More than a dozen senior, wealthy officials have been kicked out of the government under President Jakaya Kikwete’s tenure, and Prof Mkumbo said they are likely to follow Mr Lowassa.
class=”EA-DefaultText”“So many who were seeking the CCM nomination were booted out in the early stages of the race they are angry with the party chairman, President Kikwete, so they may want to punish him by supporting the opposition. But they also sympathise with Mr Magufuli, who is seen as a neutral candidate, and he needs to reach out to them,” said Prof Mkumbo.
class=”EA-DefaultText”CCM top brass have not spoken. But a junior party official held a press conference last week on Wednesday to say Mr Lowassa was free to leave.