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Electoral upset possible as Tanzanians vote for president, legislature

October 25, 2015 - TANZANIA

Voters in the east African country choose a president and National Assembly as uncertainties, created by a government corruption scandal and the postponement of the Apr 2015 constitutional referendum, open the door to change.

The opposition is within reach of breaking the long-standing stranglehold on power of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, and the vote might win greater power for autonomous Zanzibar. The uncertainties might also trigger uncharacteristic political turmoil.

At a massive rally in the economic capital of Dar es Salaam on Aug 23, the CCM presidential candidate, former works minister John Magufuli, promised supporters that he would put an end to rampant corruption.

The country's four main opposition parties have chosen ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa, who defected last month from the CCM, as their joint presidential candidate. The newswire AFP reports that Lowassa, 61, was the east African country's prime minister between 2005 and 2008.

Tanzania, the union of Tanganyika with Zanzibar, has a track record of peaceful presidential handovers, but the CCM government hasn't yet faced a significant challenge from the opposition. Although CCM has won all four elections since 1995, when an era of one-party rule ended, the opposition has made ground in recent votes. This time around the four main opposition parties - Chadema party, the Civic United Front (CUF), NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) - have increased their chances by fielding joint candidates at all levels of elections.

The postponed constitutional referendum was a vote on a charter to replace one passed in 1977 when the country was under one-party rule. The opposition boycotted the vote on the draft constitution, which was approved by the CCM-dominated assembly on Oct 2, 2014. The opposition is angry because the draft constitution makes few major changes to the structure of government, claiming it has rejected opposition calls for a strengthening of the federal system to limit presidential powers. It would also have shifted the relationship between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

President Jakaya Kikwete is ineligible for a third term and has ruled out any effort to extend it. Britain's Guardian newspaper reports that Kikwete was forced to take action after the energy minister resigned following an alleged role in US $180 million going missing from Tanzania's central bank.

Three issues loom over Tanzania's political scene (FT 30 Sep 2013)

Zanzibar: Fifth Tanzanian General Election Scheduled for 25 October 2015 (UNPO 27 Feb 2015)

Tanzania opposition sign unity deal ahead of 2015 elections (Reuters/Daily Mail 27 Oct 2014)

Scandals taint Kikwete legacy, jeopardise CCM's chances (East African 27 Dec 2014)

Campaigning gets underway for Tanzania elections (AFP/Yahoo 23 Aug 2015)

Date written/update: 2015-09-23