Chadema makes progress in north Tanzania

Tanzania’s opposition party Chadema won a convincing victory against Tanzania’s governing CCM party in the Arumeru East by-election at the beginning of April. Chadema’s candidate Joshua Nassari won 54.34 per cent of the vote against 44.32 per cent for Sioi Sumari of the CCM, with the remainder shared between several small parties.

The defeat of the CCM is a serious warning for the government, which sent a number of key stalwarts, including ex-president Benjamin Mkapa, to campaign for the party in Arumeru, close to the northern city of Arusha.

Arusha has been a stronghold for Chadema since the party made gains in the area during the general elections in 2010. CCM made a special effort therefore to hold back further Chadema advances in Amumeru with a combination of blatant campaign promises, backing from national politicians and strong-arm tactics to discourage voters from turning out.

The victory is particularly important for Chadema because it gives the opposition a strong electoral base in the north of the country. Arusha Urban to the west and Hai in the Kilimanjaro region to the east are also in Chadema hands. Nassari, the new member of parliament, has also shown particular appeal for young voters, disenchanted with old-style corruption and politics.

Chadema’s by-election victory follows on those of the party in the last presidential elections when its candidate Willibrod Slaa took 27.1 per cent of the vote against the country’s president Jakaya Kikwete (CCM) who won 61 per cent of the count compared with over 80 per cent in the 2005 elections.

A number of Chedema supporters were arrested after the by-election on the grounds of causing “chaos” during the jubilant victory celebrations. They have already been released according to a report in the English-language daily newspaper The Citizen.

In January 2011 two Chadema supporters were killed during a police charge on a Chadema demonstration in Arusha.