Infighting within the ruling party, an exuberant coalition of opposition parties and rampant poverty are offering the stiffest threat yet to Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM’s) decades-long stranglehold on power as Tanzania prepares for the upcoming general elections.
This year’s election is the most competitive and unpredictable in the nation’s history with the incumbent party making several political gaffes and the opposition parties more united than in the past.
Ahead of the fifth multiparty polls set to hold on October 25, CCM, the nationalist party credited with securing independence from Britain in 1961, has been dealt a severe blow with the defections of influential personnel.
Among these are two former Prime Ministers of the country, who have crossed the floor to new homes in the opposition parties.
Edward Lowassa, Prime Minister from 2005-2008, recently quit the CCM after the party’s Central Committee eliminated him from its list of presidential aspirants.
No sooner had he described the party as “infested with leaders who are dictators, undemocratic and surrounded with greedy power mongers,” than he left to join the rival Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).
He has been designated as the presidential candidate of a coalition of four opposition parties, Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA), which is Swahili for Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution.
Frederick Sumaye, Lowassa’s predecessor, who held the Prime Minister position for ten years, after unsuccessfully seeking the ruling CCM’s nomination as its presidential candidate in the forthcoming election, quit the party in August and joined UKAWA under similar frustrations.
Interestingly, Lowassa has defected to an opposition party that once labelled him as “one of the most corrupt figures in Tanzanian society.”
The Civic United Front (CUF), NCCR-Mageuzi and National League for Democracy (NLD) complete the four-party formation that is UKAWA, seen as the biggest threat to CCM’s dominance of Tanzanian politics.
According to analysts, the image of the ruling party, which surprisingly declared Works Minister, John Mugufuli (55), as its presidential candidate ahead of prominent members to succeed Jakaya Kikwete, has taken a battering.
“There is general feeling that the new coalition would humiliate the CCM come election day, Willie Nyaburi, an Arusha-based analyst.
He projected concerns of political intolerance by the ruling CCM, lack of proper development in the country, increasing rate of unemployment under the leadership of the liberation movement as well as the desire to change from being ruled by one political party since the 1960 would compromise the party’s chances. An estimated 34 percent of Tanzania’s 47,4-million population currently lives in poverty.
These were among the key issues that drove the four political parties into a coalition. The coalition has enhanced the opposition’s chances of gaining more parliamentary seats and of perhaps ushering Lowassa into the presidency.
The opposition made steady gains during the last two national elections. In 2005, opposition parties led by CUF won only 26 of the 228 parliamentary seats. However, in the 2010 elections, the opposition won 50 seats, with CHADEMA and CUF picking up 24 each.
“While our country has not known violence in its previous elections, Tanzanians are deeply worried by lack of freedom of expression.
“The populace, especially the youths, just need a change from one political party dominating the country’s elections from 1964 up to this present moment. They are clamouring to vote and ensure a new political dispensation,” Nyaburi said.
The elections are dividing families along party lines. While most of the youth’s vote is seen going “Change’s Way”, the old guard is seen swinging the votes in the CCM’s favour.
According to the statistics of the last census held in 2014, The under 15 age group represented 44,1 percent of the population, with 35,5 percent being in the 15–35 age group, 52,2 percent being in the 15–64 age group, and 3.8 percent being older than 64.
The ruling party is seen losing its appeal among Tanzania’s increasingly youthful voters.
“Provided CCM does not rig the polls as is the norm with ruling political parties across Africa, they will lose to the coalition. My parents belong to the ruling party but I chose to support the main opposition,” said Fred Karega, a technology student in Dar es Salaam.
CHADEMA Chairman, Freeman Mbowe, also projected the end was nigh for the ruling party.
“Apparently, Mr Sumaye has left CCM because he’s convinced that CCM is not the party that will be able to really steer Tanzania into fundamental development that is desperately needed in this country. And in this case he has decided to join forces with the other former Prime Minister who is our presidential candidate in the general elections in October,” Mbowe said.
CCM has been at the helm of the largely-peaceful East African country since Julius Nyerere ushered into the presidency in 1964 when Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania. His presidency would run until 1985 when Ali Hassan Mwinyi succeeded him. After a decade-long tenure, Benjamin Mkapa, who handed over to Kikwete after a similar stint, was elected.
Amid the winds of change seemingly blowing, there is however some defiance from die-hard CCM supporters Mugufuli, one of the eight candidates vying for the presidency, would maintain that trend.
“For now, Chama Cha Mapinduzi cannot be beaten by any political party in Tanzania whether the sun changes rising from the west to the east. Tanzanians just love the CCM.
“Even those that who have left to join the coalition, they know deep down their hearts that CCM cannot be beaten, but they are just testing waters,” Ibrahim Mugo, a CCM activist.
Author: Alloyce Kimbunga