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Tanzania Opposition Counts on Enthusiastic Supporters Ahead of Vote

  • Peter Clottey

A man holds up a painted portrait of Edward Lowassa, former prime minister of Tanzania and presidential candidate for UKAWA, a coalition of four main opposition parties, during a political rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Aug. 29, 2015.

A man holds up a painted portrait of Edward Lowassa, former prime minister of Tanzania and presidential candidate for UKAWA, a coalition of four main opposition parties, during a political rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Aug. 29, 2015.

A prominent member of Tanzania’s main opposition Chadema party says the intense enthusiasm exhibited by supporters is a significant boost to the opposition’s effort to defeat the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in the upcoming October 25 general election.

Parliamentarian Tundu Lissu said prospective voters want change and that Tanzanians are displeased with the direction of the country. This will enable the opposition alliance known as UKAWA to defeat the ruling CCM for the first time in the country’s history, he said.

He said the enthusiasm demonstrated by the crowds at the opposition campaigns was indicative of the voter registration project that the party implemented as part of its ground game ahead of the election.

“What we are seeing now is phenomenal," Lissu said. "We are seeing the kind of enthusiasm that we have never seen in our entire history of multiparty politics over the past 20 years.”

“For the first time the opposition did something we have never done before, and that is we organized a massive voter registration drive across the country," he said. "CCM was completely asleep. We did register millions of Tanzanians entirely on our own ... and I will say about 75 percent of those who registered heard the Chadema message that they should register.”

His comments followed the resignation of a leading member of the party who accused its presidential candidate, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, of corruption.

Former Chadema Secretary General Willbroad Slaa also accused the party of taking a route that sharply contradicts the values he believes in by accepting and welcoming Lowassa to the party, as well as making him the presidential candidate.

Lowassa recently defected from the ruling CCM to the opposition.

But Lissu said the infighting was unlikely to derail or deter the opposition alliance in its effort to wrestle power away from the CCM.

“When the party is poised to win this election for the first time, Dr. Slaa has gone absent without leave, he has gone AWOL," Lissu said. "He has chickened out. The kind of reaction we have had since his departure tells us that Dr. Slaa’s departure is not going to have any significant impact, the respect he commands notwithstanding.”

Supporters of the CCM maintain the party knows how to win elections. They said this year would not be different, contending the opposition parties have always promised to win previous elections but have fallen short.

Lissu disagreed. He accused the ruling party of rigging elections, an accusation the CCM denies.

“We have given them the room to rig previous elections, [but] this year is different," Lissu said. "We are more organized with party structures all across the country, and the surest way of preventing vote theft is to win so overwhelmingly that they are simply not going to be able to steal everything. ... We are not going to take any rigging lying down, that is for sure.”

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