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Tanzania's Ruling Party Ahead in Election Campaign

Campaigning is under way for Tanzania's October 30 elections. It's the country's third multiparty election since it allowed opposition parties 13 years ago.

Even though Tanzania's venerable President Benjamin Mkapa steps down after a decade in power, analysts predict members from his ruling party are widely expected to win the presidency and a parliamentary majority in October elections.

Tanzania's ruling party is called the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or CCM, which is Swahili for "Party for Change." It's ironic considering that it's the only political party that has ever led Tanzania, starting with President Julius Nyerere in 1962, a year after . The candidate for his party is Jakaya Kikwete, who is the current foreign minister. He is fairly popular and has been a party stalwart for a long time. In Tanzania, they're facing weak opposition."

Still, at least 12 opposition parties are vying for power. In all, there are 10 presidential candidates. Their platforms are similar to the ruling party's platform of economic growth, more jobs, raising the status of women, and improving access to schools for the nation's youth.

At least one opposition group, wary of vote rigging by the ruling party, has threatened massive protests if national elections are not free and fair.

Seif Sharif Hamad is the presidential candidate for Tanzania's main opposition party, the Civic United Front, or CUF. He says the electoral register is flawed, with the names of thousands of ruling party supporters registered twice and opposition party voters dropped from the rolls.

"What we're saying is that we want free and fair elections," said Seif Sharif Hamad. "The call from the opposition and especially my party is that we should have voters verification before the elections. If the registers are not verified, definitely those elections won't be free and fair. Otherwise, we say that if the elections are rigged this time, we are going to stage peaceful demonstrations in the style of the Ukraine and other countries, using orange revolution."

Mr. Hamad was referring to the so-called "orange revolution", or mass street protests, against the allegedly rigged elections in Ukraine last year that toppled the government and ushered in a new reformist administration.

In the past two elections held in 1995 and 2000, CUF supporters protested against CCM election victories in Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean island that became part of Tanzania with the understanding that it would be semi-autonomous, with its own president, cabinet and parliament.

In 2000, about 40 people were killed in clashes between opposition and ruling party supporters in Zanzibar.

Despite gains in some areas of development, such as road-building and agriculture, there appears to be a growing disparity between the rich and poor, says Donald Kasongi, coordinator for good governance at the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development, a nongovernmental agency.

"The opposition groups are sort of reactive," said Seif Sharif Hamad. "They seem to be trying to respond to what the incumbent party is saying. They have not demonstrated their strength in terms of being active or assertive with their own policies or present their views without necessarily referring to the ruling party."

He says persistent poverty is a problem that opposition parties, lacking fresh ideas of their own, are trying unsuccessfully to exploit.