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Tanzania Poll Shows Ruling Party Candidate Leads Presidential Contest

FILE - John Pombe Magufuli, presidential candidate of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in Tanzania.
FILE - John Pombe Magufuli, presidential candidate of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in Tanzania.

A nationwide survey released this week in Tanzania showed John Magufuli, candidate of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, leading the presidential race, with the leader of the main opposition party, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, running second.

The poll, which was conducted by nonprofit civic organization Twaweza, showed Magufuli with 65 percent support, while Lowassa of the Chadema party followed with 25 percent. Other candidates garnered 3 percent, with 7 percent still undecided.

The poll was the first major survey conducted ahead of the October 25 elections.

Aidan Eyadkuze, executive director of Twaweza, said the polling was scientific and gave a true snapshot of the current state of affairs in the runup to the election.

Eyadkuze said his company didn’t have permission to poll in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, but Twaweza polled 2,000 citizens across Tanzania’s mainland in the study.

“We asked them questions that touched on what their priorities were," he said. "The findings were interesting in the sense that in the past surveys that we’ve done since 2012, the main issues have been economy and jobs, but in this survey it turns out that the economy and jobs [were] dropped to fourth place, whereas health issues, the water supply and education quality took the top three positions.”

Voter confusion

Eyadkuze called the poll a “very scientific survey. We have been doing these surveys since 2012 ... and they are Africa’s first nationally representative mobile phone panel surveys, so our methodology is unimpeachable.”

He also said the public appeared to be misinformed about the status of the opposition coalition, known as UKAWA.

Eyadkuze said 49 percent of respondents erroneously thought UKAWA was a registered political party that would be on the printed ballot for the election.

“We discovered that many people have the great sense to participate in this election, but actually only 57 percent knew the correct date of the election," he said.

Ruling party bias?

Supporters of the Chadema party dismissed the poll results, saying Twaweza was doing the bidding of CCM to confuse prospective voters.

They cited recent crowds the opposition party has been attracting at its campaigns as an indication that CCM fears its dominance will be broken in the upcoming vote. The Chadema supporters also said the political momentum was on their side to defeat CCM.

Eyadkuze disagreed and rejected the criticisms as without merit.

“We do not do the bidding of the CCM,” he said.