Tanzania’s October 25 poll will be like no other, leading analysts say

Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Presidential candidate John Magufuli delivers a speech during a political rally on July 14, 2015 in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s election campaigns are heading to the homestretch this week ahead of what analysts say would be the most tightly contested poll in the nation’s history. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Although there are six presidential candidates, including a woman, they are considered also-rans as this year’s poll is seen as a two horse race between John Pombe Magufuli of CCM and Edward Lowasa of Ukawa.
  • The intense rivalry was not expected because both belonged to CCM, a party that has dominated Tanzanian politics for decades. 
  • Other analysts, however, say the broad and impressive CCM grassroots machinery cannot be written off and that Magufuli may be propelled to victory on the back of this network.
  • The main opposition party, CUF, has consistently complained of being robbed of victory by CCM candidates in the semi-autonomous region.

Tanzania’s election campaigns are heading to the homestretch this week ahead of what analysts say would be the most tightly contested poll in the nation’s history.

This will be the first time a united opposition (Ukawa) will be fielding one main candidate against the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), setting the stage for an unusually intense campaign.

So tight is the race between the main contenders at national and parliamentary levels that some experts have advised candidates and supporters to prepare for any outcome when the polls close on Sunday.

On Sunday, Tanzania’s The Citizen newspaper reported that five candidates died recently after falling ill while on the campaign trail.

“I think there is a need for politicians to receive counselling and accept results after the October 25 election,” Dr Helen Kijo-Bisimba, the Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre in Dar es Salaam told the paper.

“Campaign pressure and tension pose safety and health risks to candidates but the election results could also pose mental and physical health dangers to those who lose.”

Although there are six presidential candidates, including a woman, they are considered also-rans as this year’s poll is seen as a two horse race between John Pombe Magufuli of CCM and Edward Lowasa of Ukawa.

INTENSE RIVALRY

The intense rivalry was not expected because both belonged to CCM, a party that has dominated Tanzanian politics for decades. 

CCM elders decided to nominate Magufuli and locked Lowassa out of the race.

The former prime minister defected to the opposition and was handed the presidential ticket by a coalition, led by current main opposition party Chadema, NCCR-Mageuzi, Civic United Front of Zanzibar and Union for the People’s Constitution.

Tanzania has never witnessed serious election violence before, but some observers say that was because previous polls were never a tight contest.

In 2010, outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete won 61 per cent of the vote and CCM won the majority of seats in the national assembly.

“A tight election or the perception of a rigged outcome could increase the chance of post-election violence in what has been one of Africa’s leading democracies and most peaceful countries,” observed Johnnie Carson, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in an article on the African Arguments website.

“Tanzania has been one of Africa’s most peaceful countries since its independence and has been regarded over the past two decades as one of the continent’s strongest democracies. A close and hotly contested election might challenge these assumptions.”

Opinion polls have seesawed wildly with some showing either of the two candidates in the lead.

Tanzania Development Initiatives Programme gave Lowassa a 54 per cent lead against Magufuli’s 40 per cent.

CONFLICTING POLLS
Another survey by the Canadian Nanos Research Institute showed Lowassa winning by 64 per cent against Magufuli’s 31.

One other survey conducted by the opposition coalition indicated an outrageous score of 79 per cent for Lowassa but this was dismissed by CCM as ridiculous.

Regional polling giant Ipsos in a separate poll last month found Magufuli leading with 62 per cent against Lowassa’s 31 per cent.

Another organisation, Twaweza, polled Magufuli at 66 per cent with Lowassa trailing with 25 per cent.

Except for a few barbs exchanged between them, candidates have restricted themselves to issues like corruption, education, health and poverty.

They have preached unity and peace and condemned violent extremism which has sometimes been witnessed in Zanzibar.

Magufuli has promised voters that he would form a special court “for thieves and the corrupt.”

Lowassa has made similar pledges, including one on free public education from primary to the university level.

If it comes to pass, Tanzania will be the first country in the region to achieve that. Yet Lowassa will have to explain to voters how that programme would be sustained.

Some analysts think the tight race could be compared to Kenya’s 2002 General Election when Kanu was dislodged by an opposition alliance.

Magufuli is the Minister for Works in Jakaya Kikwete’s government while Lowassa was PM under Kikwete before a financial scandal forced him out in 2008.

“Both countries had a dominant liberation party (Kanu and CCM), which had the machinery and have manipulated multiparty democracy,” said Prof Peter Kagwanja, Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

“In 2002, Kanu had a weaker candidate in Uhuru Kenyatta leading to sympathy for the opposition’s National Rainbow Coalition. CCM is a strong party but it also seems to be having a weak candidate and that has divided the regional sympathy.”

ROBBED OF VICTORY
Other analysts, however, say the broad and impressive CCM grassroots machinery cannot be written off and that Magufuli may be propelled to victory on the back of this network.

In 2002, Narc was formed from an alliance of the Democratic Party, Liberal Democratic Party and the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya to dislodge Kanu.

Other opposition parties such as Chama Cha Uma, Social Democratic Party and Ford-People contested separately but lost.

“I think there is strong euphoria in Tanzania for now, but there has been no big agitation against the ruling party as was the case here in 2002,” added Macharia Munene, Professor of history and international relations at USIU-Africa.

“The reality is that most of those competing against CCM are doing so because they could not get an opportunity to run there. The likelihood is that CCM will lose popularity, but the ruling party can still win the elections.”

One of the most watched regions during the election will be Zanzibar where some political figures have long agitated for greater autonomy.

The main opposition party, CUF, has consistently complained of being robbed of victory by CCM candidates in the semi-autonomous region.

CCM will field incumbent Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein against veteran CUF chief Seif Sharif Hamad, better known by the name Maalim Seif.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.