Tanzania election campaign underway

Tough fight expected by UKAWA opposition coalition

Campaigning for Tanzania's presidential and parliamentary elections is in full swing ahead of the country's 25 October polls.

The election is expected to be the most tightly contested in the country's history, and for the first time the opposition could pose a serious threat to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party which has dominated politics since modern Tanzania was formed in 1964.

The two main candidates are John Magufuli of the CCM, and Edward Lowassa who defected from the CCM in late July to lead the Coalition of Defenders of the People's Constitution (UKAWA), an umbrella group of four opposition parties, the largest of which is Chadema.

Magufuli is minister of works in the present government while Lowassa was prime minister from 2005-2008 under the outgoing president Jakaya Kikwete, who is standing down after serving the maximum two-term limit. Magufuli's selection as presidential candidate was seen as a surprise, and led to the equally unexpected defection of Lowassa to the opposition.

A number of key CCM figures, including ex-prime minister Frederick Sumaye, followed Lowassa to UKAWA, however the CCM claims that its former members who crossed party lines did so for “ulterior motives.”

UKAWA has accused the government of blocking it from holding an election rally on 29 August at the football stadium in Dar es Salaam, the same venue where the CCM launched its election campaign a week earlier.

Magufuli promises to end corruption and has been praised by Kikwete as "a clean, honest and humble person." His running mate is Samia Saluhu, a Zanzibar politician and the first female running mate in the CCM's history.

Lowassa retains a high level of support among younger voters and his running mate is Juma Haji, a Zanzibar politician and former deputy chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF), from which he defected to join Lowassa.

The CCM currently has two-thirds of the seats in parliament but political observers say its strength has been damaged by Lowassa's departure, as well as by several recent corruption scandals involving the embezzlement of public funds.

In addition to Chadema and the CUF, the two other opposition parties in UKAWA are the NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The National Electoral Committee has completed its biometric voter registration, following a nationwide process begun in February this year, registering over 27 million voters. Delays in the procedure had led to the postponment of the country's referendum on the new constitution in April.