Mixed Results for Ruling CCM in Tanzania

Tanzanians were asked to vote for a new president on Sunday, in one of the biggest challenges to the Party of the Revolution’s (CCM) 54-year rule since independence. President Barack Obama meets with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, left, in the Oval Office Thursday, May 21, 2009.   Source: Wikimedia Commons

Despite initial predictions of a close contest, the CCM leads the opposition by a ratio of two to one in early results, meaning it will retain the presidency and control of the parliament.

Tanzania is slated to get a new President for the first time in 10 years, as incumbent Jakaya Kikwete has reached the end of his second five-year term, the constitutionally mandated limit.

Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who only defected from the CCM in July, led the opposition Chadema party into the elections against the CCM’s nominee, and current Minister of Works, John Magufuli.

Opinion polling in the run-up to Sunday showed Magufuli with a slight lead. However, many Tanzanians have expressed their opposition to CCM. Moses Nyanzav, a motorbike-taxi driver from Mwanza, decried that “the CCM has been in power for 54 years, but...education is poor, health is poor, agriculture is poor – they have done nothing.”

The opposition Chadema party benefited from this unprecedented dissatisfaction with CCM, with Lowassa drawing large crowds at his rallies. Despite his popularity, however, Lowassa remains a controversial figure in Tanzanian politics. Serving as Prime Minister under Kikwete from 2005 to 2008, Lowassa was forced to resign amid a fraud scandal that left him with the nickname Lo-Rushwa, the Swahili word for bribe.

Denying all wrongdoing, he reemerged on the national political stage earlier this year, declaring his intent to run for the CCM’s nomination as President. Citing the corruption charges, however, the party leadership barred his candidature, leaving him to defect to the opposition to continue his run.

The election, predicted to be the closest in Tanzania’s history since independence in 1961, turned out to be far from that, with the CCM soundly retaining its parliamentary majority, albeit with the loss of several high profile seats.

Adding another wrinkle to the election is the situation in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island region of Tanzania. Zanzibar has its own president and parliament, but longstanding CCM rule has meant that policy comes straight from Dodoma, the national capital, rather than from a truly representative regional government.

In order to preserve this rule (and prevent Zanzibar from becoming more autonomous), the CCM has routinely employed voter suppression and intimidation tactics on opposition supporters in Zanzibar. Earlier this month, masked members of paramilitary units beat up youths who were putting up opposition posters, one of a number of similar incidents aimed at intimidating Chadema or Civic United Front (CUF) supporters.

Contrary to the results on the mainland, the CUF and its presidential candidate in Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, have declared victory. This would mark the first time the dual-presidency has been held by different parties in Tanzania.

No official result has been declared in Zanzibar, however, and soldiers stormed the electoral commission early Tuesday, detaining journalists and stemming the release of further results.

With early results indicating a CCM victory in the mainland and an opposition win in Zanzibar, paired with the increasing likelihood that Lowassa will contest the legality of the election, many observers fear that crackdowns and protests could destabilize the country and delegitimize the new President’s mandate.