Campaigning for Tanzania’s October 25th presidential elections began Sunday. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has dominated Tanzanian politics since independence in 1964. This time, observers say, the race promises to be the closest in that country’s history.
The CCM has suffered two major defections to the opposition. First, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, once seen as a possible ruling party nominee, left and became the presidential candidate for a coalition of four major opposition parties.
On Saturday Frederick Sumaye, who was Prime Minister from November 1995 to December 2005 under President Benjamin Mkapa, also left the ruling party, to join the opposition CHADEMA party.
Freeman Mbowe, chairman of CHADEMA, said the two former Prime Ministers left CCM because they are convinced the party has failed to bring meaningful development to Tanzania.
“Apparently Mr. Sumaye has left CCM because he’s convinced that CCM is not the party that will be able to really steer Tanzania into fundamental development that is desperately needed in this country. And in this case he has decided to join forces with other former Prime Minister who is our presidential candidate in the general elections in October,” he said.
There have been reports that Ibrahim Lipumba, chairman of the Civic United Front party, Tanzania’s second-biggest opposition party, had resigned in protest over Lowassa becoming the presidential candidate of the opposition.
Mbowe said Sumaye had said he left the ruling CCM party to strengthen the opposition, and not to seek any leadership position.
“According to the press conference that took place in Dar es Salaam, where he announced his departure from CCM to the opposition, he (Sumaye) did mention that he’s not coming into the opposition because he is seeking any particular post. But he thinks it is high time that Tanzania strengthens the opposition so we will have two main political parties like the way it is in the U.S., where you have Democrats and Republicans or the way it is in the U.K. where they have the Labour Party and the Conservatives,” Mbowe said.
He said the opposition welcomes the defection of other experienced ruling CCM supporters because the opposition wants to form the next Tanzanian government.
Mbowe said both Sumaye and Lowassa have said they left the ruling party because it was corrupt and also because it failed to bring meaningful development to Tanzania.
“They both confessed that the government of the day in Tanzania under the CCM party is a very corrupt government. They also claimed that the government has mismanaged the economy lost mandate to lead the development of this country," Mbowe said.
He also said the two defecting former Prime Ministers blamed the CCM for the way the party handled the nomination process of John Magufuli as the CCM’s presidential candidate.
“They think the process was not democratic. They were kind of sidelined in the process; they felt justice was not done to all the candidates the way it’s supposed to be according to the regulations and the constitution of the CCM party,” Mbowe said.
Addressing supporters Sunday when the CCM launched its campaign for the October election, CCM candidate Magufuli promised to end “corruption, embezzlement, theft and abuse of office” if elected Tanzania’s next president.
Magufuli also promised to set up a “special court to deal with the corrupt, economic saboteurs and embezzlers”.